Trump Is About to Meet U.S. Allies in Canada. They’re Angry.

President Trump with other leaders of the Group of 7 last year for what’s referred to as the “family photo.” This year’s may not feature many smiles.
President Trump with other leaders of the Group of 7 last year for what’s referred to as the “family photo.” This year’s may not feature many smiles.
President Trump will travel to a sleepy village in Quebec on Friday to meet with the leaders of America’s closest allies for a summit meeting that usually ends with a moment of global camaraderie — the “family photo” that captures presidents and prime ministers smiling for the camera.

This year there won’t be many grins.

Mr. Trump is the black sheep of this family, the estranged sibling who decided to pick fights with his relatives just before arriving to dinner. The dispute, Larry Kudlow, the president’s top economic adviser, acknowledges, is “much like a family quarrel,” but with the potential for vast diplomatic and economic consequences for the world.

The anger of American allies, especially about Mr. Trump’s decision to impose tariffs, is palpable.

“Patently absurd” is what Liam Fox, the British trade minister, called them. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said they were “illegal,” while Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, said they were “insulting and totally unacceptable” — and that was in the carefully worded public statement. In a phone call with Mr. Trump, he was said to be even more blunt.

Ahead of the summit meeting, finance ministers from the other six countries that form the Group of 7, or G-7, condemned Mr. Trump’s trade decisions in an extraordinary rebuke of a member nation’s president. And some of the leaders themselves have threatened to boycott the usual end-of-meeting communiqué. A senior Canadian official said a statement by only Mr. Trudeau, the gathering’s host, is possible.

“I will, of course, try to speak to the U.S. president about the current problems that we have overall, in particular on Iran and on trade tariffs,” Ms. Merkel told lawmakers in Berlin on Wednesday. Asked about the upcoming discussions in Canada, the famously taciturn leader said they would be “difficult.”

There have been disagreements within the G-7 in the past, including a long chill between the Europeans and President George W. Bush over the Iraq war. When Ronald Reagan put missiles in Europe, his counterparts branded him a cowboy who would start World War III.

But rarely — if ever — has there been the kind of visceral and unanimous outrage at an American president among the nation’s most important allies, who for decades have seen the closest of relationships with the leader of the free world as a paramount foreign policy priority.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly poked his counterparts in the eye — ignoring their pleas to remain a part of the Paris climate treaty, the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact and the Iran nuclear deal, and more recently by branding their steel and aluminum industries threats to national security, and therefore subject to tariffs.

So when Mr. Trump disembarks from Air Force One on Friday morning for a day and a half of closed-door meetings in the resort town of La Malbaie, the president can expect a subzero reception for what some observers have begun calling the “G6+1,” a reference to the political and diplomatic isolation that Mr. Trump has created for himself with his unilateral trade and security actions against his friends.

Cliff Kupchan, a veteran foreign policy analyst, said he expected a “very frosty dynamic” and predicted that “Trump’s going to get an earful from all of them.” Dan Price, who guided Mr. Bush through many economic summit meetings, said the other six leaders should express their concerns to Mr. Trump “even at the risk of offending a notoriously thin-skinned president.”

And Mark Dubowitz, the chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said that because of “real indignation and real frustration” on the part of European leaders who are extremely angry at Mr. Trump, the “venting process is likely to continue” throughout the meeting.

The ill will among America’s allies is a striking contrast to the praise Mr. Trump has heaped on North Korea, one of the country’s most enduring adversaries, before his historic meeting next week with Kim Jong-un, the country’s normally reclusive leader.

The president, who is scheduled to fly Saturday from Quebec to Singapore for the meeting, has called Mr. Kim — the leader of a country once described as part of an “axis of evil” — a “very honorable” man, even as he clashes repeatedly with his counterparts in the world’s longest-lasting democracies.

Mr. Trump’s feud with the allies is also risking a go-it-alone approach to China’s trade practices even as many trade experts have called for a unified front by Western economies to confront China. The disputes with the United States have frustrated European leaders, who are eager for a joint effort that might pressure Beijing for change. Leaders had hoped to use the meeting to help formulate a strategy to combat China’s surplus steel, but they now appear more likely to focus on their own trade divisions instead.

“The isolation from our G-7 allies undermines the United States’ ability to work with them to confront real challenges in Russia or China or the Middle East,” Mr. Price said. “I certainly hope the president and his team will take the opportunity presented by the G-7 summit to find a path forward.”

Others are less sanguine about that possibility.

Mr. Trump’s decision to abandon the Iran deal was particularly infuriating to leaders in Europe, where businesses and banks had been eager to begin commercial activities in Iran with the lifting of sanctions. But after the president decided to withdraw the United States from the agreement, European businesses are likely to avoid doing business in Iran for fear of risking sanctions that could keep them out of the much more lucrative American markets.

“There’s no underestimating the level of anger and frustration,” Mr. Dubowitz said. “For the Europeans, this is really a question of sovereignty. It’s a direct challenge, in the case of Iran, to their national security.”

Still, the more immediate source of friction with Mr. Trump is on trade. Efforts to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement have stalled in bitter disagreement. And the decision by the United States to claim national security concerns has infuriated even the most stalwart allies, who view it as a transparent — and ridiculous — attempt to get around the rules set by the World Trade Organization.

Mr. Trump has sent no signals that he is willing to back off. In remarks to reporters on Wednesday, Mr. Kudlow insisted that the president does not intend to be constrained by the global trading rules set up by his predecessors.

“That system has been broken in the last 20 years-plus. The World Trade Organization, for example, has become completely ineffectual,” he said, adding later: “International multilateral organizations are not going to determine American policy. I think the president has made that very clear.”

The allies at the G-7 are unlikely to give in, either. The Canadians and the European Union have filed cases against the United States at the World Trade Organization, and have announced retaliatory tariffs in a tit-for-tat series of economic moves that could spark an all-out trade war.

French officials say President Emmanuel Macron is likely to urge Mr. Trump to relent, arguing that he will damage the United States economy if he persists. Other allies are hoping that American businesses will pressure Mr. Trump to back off once the tariffs begin affecting their supply chains and profits.

Clues to how the meetings in Canada have gone may be found in the body language of Mr. Trump and his counterparts as they pose for pictures before and after their sessions.

Mr. Kupchan said he will be looking for the expressions on the faces of the allies: “Merkel sitting next to Trump, having just talked about Iran, with a massive frown, looking the other way,” he said. “That’s my best bet.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *