Trump Exacerbates Controversy Among World Leaders Following Free-Trade Demands

Written by: Stefan M. Kløvning

International Relations – Most of us has by now seen the widely circulating picture of world leaders confronting Trump on the second day of the G7 summit in Quebec, Canada, but exactly what it signals has become rather controversial. Those on the left side of politics, and in opposition to Trump think of it as a united front confronting a bully, whereas his proponents perceive it as an illustration of him standing up for American interests, and that America is the one in power. The summit itself, however, was far beyond mere signaling. He suddenly flipped completely on trade, advocated fully tariff-free trade between the countries attending, and threatened to cut off all trade with countries with ‘robbing’ the ‘piggy bank’ of the United States by means of tariffs. He also abruptly rejected the consensus statement, making a communique highly unlikely, and accused the host (Trudeau) of lying in a press conference after the summit. Though he still perceives everything to be going bliss between the countries, many of them have taken a different view.

Trump claims that the current tariffs initiated against other countries are merely in response to the tariffs put on the United States, like with India, whom he claims has a 100% tariff on some products and Canada 270% on dairy. What this means is simply that he will reduce tariffs only when everyone else does it, rather than lead by example, and what’s more, threaten to end trade with those who don’t. Trump has for long been complaining about the trade deficit the United States has with China, but responding to Macron’s suggestion of ‘Let’s work together, we both have a China problem,’ he exclaimed that the European Union is even worse, according to a source in the room. He also went on ranting about EU’s car tariffs. According to a factsheet by the EU, they charge 10% on U.S. cars, whereas the U.S. only charge 2.5% on car imports from the EU. The short 2015 report also told that it was a goal for EU to reduce tariffs. Trump’s urgency and demands in the reduction of individual tariffs, however, is feared to be damaging to international relations. Some commentators have even opined that in taking this aggressive approach, he’s undermining Western cooperation and ‘tries to destroy the West.’

Several world leaders have spoken out about their thoughts on Trump’s demands in the aftermath of the summit. French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron, for instance, wrote that ‘In the , President Trump saw that he had a united front in front of him. To find themselves isolated in a concert of Nations is contrary to American history.’ Angela Merkel spoke of Trump’s behavior as ‘sobering and depressing,’ but Theresa May took a lighter approach. Though having been excluded from Trump’s name check of his allies, she said Britain has a good relationship with him and defended his decision to leave early to reach the summit with North Korea in Singapore.

Despite the controversy, Trump still rates his relationships to the other countries as ‘a 10,’ responding to a CNN journalist in a press conference after the summit. Trudeau primarily, but also other countries, have a rather different perspective in the aftermath of the summit.