Yesterday I talked about how Donald Trump was planning to ditch the G-7 summit to go hang out with his new dictator pals in Singapore, and today he made good on that threat, but not before storming out with the ultimatum that all nations wanting to do business with the US must drop tariffs, or else.
President Trump told foreign leaders at the Group of Seven summit that they must dramatically reduce trade barriers with the United States or they would risk losing access to the world’s largest economy, delivering his most defiant trade threat yet to his counterparts from around the globe.
But there were numerous signs here that other leaders stood their ground, having stiffened after months of attacks and insults. Each leader now faces crucial decisions about how to proceed.
Trump, in a news conference before leaving for Singapore, described private conversations he held over two days with the leaders of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Canada. He said he pushed them to consider removing every single tariff or trade barrier on American goods, and in return he would do the same for products from their countries. But if steps aren’t taken, he said, the penalties would be severe.
“We’re like the piggy bank that everybody is robbing,” Trump said. “And that ends.”
The U.S. leader described the meetings with his counterparts as cordial, and he repeatedly blamed past U.S. leaders for what he views as a trade imbalance. He also said other nations had taken advantage of decades of U.S. complacency with regards to trade, something that he planned to end.
The two-day session under crystalline blue skies in Charlevoix, Quebec, put Trump’s transactional view of alliances, economic leverage and trade relationships into sharp focus for other nations often frustrated by Trump’s ad hoc decision-making.
At this second G-7 gathering of Trump’s presidency, the question of whether the U.S. leader would follow through on campaign boasts about punishing international freeloaders has been largely answered.
He did not back away or blunt his critiques, and despite first-name references to “Angela,” and “Justin,” Trump did little to disguise his distrust of the international consensus model of world affairs that the G-7 represents.
The thing is, our allies? They're going to chose "or else". They're not putting up with Trump's crap, and they are calling the bluff of a wildly unpopular elected official whose party is about to get crushed at the polls in five months. When the economic damage of these tariffs starts to show up in jobs reports about September or October or so, you'll know what caused it.
Meanwhile, Trump is more than happy to go meet his actual boss Vladimir Putin in Vienna later this year, all while telling the G-7 allies to go to hell.
He's the best agent Putin could have asked for.