QUEBEC CITY—U.S. President Donald Trump ditched the G7 global leaders summit early, lobbing threats of more trade sanctions against his allies, proposing a radical “zero barriers” approach to international trade, and calling for Russia to be re-admitted, saying a G8 is a more “meaningful group than G7.”
Trump said he told the G7 leaders that among all countries there should be “no tariffs, no barriers, even no subsidies.”
“People were — I guess they’re going to go back to the drawing board and check it out,” he said.
“We’re like the piggy bank that everybody’s robbing and that ends.”
Trump repeated his criticisms of NAFTA, raising again the prospect of ripping it up to strike bilateral deals with Canada and Mexico, before saying “we’re close” to agreement. He said “there will be a sunset clause,” — despite Justin Trudeau’s insistence that Canada would not sign onto that — suggesting the only argument is whether it should provide for a five-year automatic expiry and renegotiation, or a longer term “because of investments.” Automakers say their business cycles are seven-to-10 years for planning, spending and production timelines.
Trump said the trade discussions were “not contentious,” but there was “strong” language used. He insisted his relationships with the other leaders were good, “outstanding,” even “10 out of 10” — pointing to how he got along with leaders of Germany, France and Canada — but he had warned them all that the days of what he calls “unfair trade deals” for the U.S. are over.
He turned to his economic advisor Larry Kudlow who said it wasn’t clear if the other G7 leaders were “surprised with President Trump’s free trade proclamation, but they certainly listened to it, and we had lengthy discussions about….zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers, zero subsidies, and along the way we’re going to have to clean up the international system.”
And if other nations retaliate against the U.S., Trump said, “they’re making a terrible mistake,” because the U.S. could cut trade ties and has “nothing to lose.”
“The difference is they do so much more business with us than we do with them that we can’t lose that.”
Trump earlier disrupted a meeting of G7 leaders with a gender advisory council by arriving late. A high-profile gender advisory council, co-chaired by Canada’s Isabelle Hudon and Melinda Gates, who wasn’t here, presented their recommendations on how G7 leaders could empower girls and women by investing in education, training and other supports.
Trudeau had already welcomed everyone and council co-chair Hudon had begun her remarks when Trump arrived. Trudeau restarted his welcome once Trump took his seat.
Trump then skipped two other G7 leader working sessions on climate change, oceans and clean energy, plus additional meetings where the G7 leaders were to sit down with more than a dozen other invited heads of government, and leaders of the UN, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Although Trump left early, the United States joined other G7 nations in a big spending announcement to support the theme of gender equality and women’s empowerment that Trudeau had set out as a priority for the summit.
All G7 nations announced their public financing institutions would collectively spend $1 billion to leverage spending of $3 billion over the next three years by private sector investors.
The lead spokesman on the American effort, Ray Washburne, credited Trump’s desire to create “inclusive economic growth for all,” and the “leadership of Ivanka Trump.”
Canada’s director of this effort, Paul Lamontagne, said the objective is “bold” and pension funds might be interested partners.
Details of what Canada’s share of the $1 billion would be are to be “fleshed out in the coming months,” said Lamontagne.
However the overall effort aimed at standing up business development funds and “acting as a bank in economies where there is a lack of liquidity of funds,” he said.
Canada’s first outlay of cash is $10 million, to be invested in a Kenyan pay-as-you-go solar energy provider, Lamontagne said. It will provide electric energy to homes off the grid, aiding more than 1 million households in East Africa. He said it will help women through providing direct jobs, easing many of the household duties that still fall to women, and help customers build a credit history, and “will have a transformative effect,” said Lamontagne.
On Russia, Trump appeared undeterred by the vehement opposition expressed by most G7 leaders, except for the newcomer, Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte who’d backed Trump.
Trump said it would be “an asset to have Russia back in” the fold, saying it would be good for the world, for Russia, for the U.S. and for the G7.
“We’re looking for peace in the world. We’re not looking to play games,” he said. “G8 is a more meaningful group than G7.”
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