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The Trump Tornado Touches Down in Canada

For their latest cover story, staffers at The Economist threw away their customary high-brow diplo-speak in favor of a terse lecture on how destabilizing and unhelpful the American president’s view of the world is. Trump, the paper opined, was lording over America’s allies like the class bully on the playground. “[I]t is hard to think of a president who bullies as gleefully as Mr Trump,” The Economist said [1]. “No other modern president has routinely treated America’s partners so shoddily or eschewed the idea of leading through alliances.”

Tough words from one of the world’s most influential weeklies. In hindsight, however, The Economist‘s castigation was a mild rebuke in comparison to the wholesale disgust leveled against him by mainstream politicians, newspapers, and foreign policy experts after last weekend’s G-7 summit outside Quebec.

In typical bull-in-the-china-shop fashion, Trump landed on Canadian soil, forced the group to endure a day of tirades against unfair trade practices, and departed on Air Force One shortly thereafter, skipping sessions on climate change and the world’s oceans. This year’s G-7, a forum established in the 1950s to get the world’s wealthiest nations on the same page, was less the choreographed, happy family photo-op we’ve grown used to than an adversarial family reunion instigated by the patriarch.

The Macrons and Merkels of the world wanted this gathering of democracies to go smoothly. Instead, it ended with Trump refusing to sign a G-7 communique after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s speech against steel and aluminum tariffs (which Trump interpreted as a disrespectful hatchet job by a “meek and mild” [2] political hack). The normally stoic Angela Merkel called the affair “depressing.” German and French officials, who had their own heated arguments with Trump on trade and tariffs, couldn’t believe their American colleague [3] was willing to walk away from a statement he’d agreed to hours earlier. To German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, Trump refusing to sign was one more rough wave crashing into the rickety boat that is the transatlantic relationship. “In a matter of seconds, you can destroy trust with 280 Twitter characters. To build that up again will take much longer,” Maas remarked [4].

France, Germany, the UK, Italy, Japan, and Canada all knew that this year’s G-7 meetings were going to be more difficult than most. With the exception of Giuseppe Conte, the new Italian premier of an anti-establishment, populist coalition government, all of the forum’s heads-of-state are multilateralists to their core. French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Merkel, and UK Prime Minister Theresa May sprinkled their speeches with references to the “liberal, rules-based international order,” a catchall euphemism for free trade between nations, respect for international law, and the importance of global institutions like the United Nations and the European Union. Each one realized that he or she would have to sit President Trump down and explain that throwing that order away in place of unending competition between nations would be a big mistake. Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, used his opening remarks [5] to remind his fellow multilateralists never to hesitate in defending the global order—even if they find themselves in opposition to the president of the United States.

Trump didn’t want to hear the lectures. In fact, according to his advisors, he didn’t want to fly to Canada at all. Though he ended up going, he spent much of the day ranting about the United States getting taken advantage of financially and militarily. He lambasted the Canadians for their high tariffs on U.S. dairy products, repeated his contention that Uncle Sam is being taken for a ride by supposed friends, publicly supported reincorporating Russia back into the group, and left Quebec a day early only to attack Justin Trudeau on Twitter. Not even in Merkel’s worst nightmares did she think Trump would hurl insults at the Canadians—the Canadians, of all people!

Pick up a European newspaper or scroll through the commentariat and you will find headline after headline counting down the days before the Western order implodes. The Atlantic’s David Frum writes that Trump has gone to war [6] with the very Western democracies he’s supposed to be leading, while the Washington Post’s Max Boot suggests the transatlantic alliance will die in Canada [7] thanks to Trump’s churlishness. In an editorial, the Financial Times stated [8] that “it would have been better if President Donald Trump had carried out his threat and declined to attend the summit at all.” Only on the fringes of right-wing media has anyone argued that Trump’s trip to Canada was a success. The nicest thing anybody to the left of Sean Hannity and Nigel Farage had to say was along the lines of “hey, at least we aren’t at war with Canada yet.”

Is the transatlantic community dying a slow and painful death? Is the world order as we’ve known it for over 70 years starting to unravel? Are the United States and Europe about to cut ties and go their own way? Not necessarily: Washington, Brussels, London, and Tokyo still have plenty of mutual national security interests that bind them together. Tariffs, Trump’s personality, and threats of trade wars aside, the countries of the West are on the same side on a lot of issues, whether it’s denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula or fighting Islamic terrorism.

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But even Trump supporters have to be admit that in certain situations, the president doesn’t make the job easy. The G-7 summit was one of them.

Daniel R. DePetris is a foreign policy analyst, a columnist at Reuters, and a frequent contributor to The American Conservative.

35 Comments (Open | Close)

35 Comments To "The Trump Tornado Touches Down in Canada"

#1 Comment By connecticut farmer On June 11, 2018 @ 1:14 pm

And while we’re at it, why isn’t it the “G-8”? Forget Russia! Ever heard of a country called “China”? Er…it’s been the largest exporter since 2009 and the largest trading nation in the world for at least the last five years. Duh!!!

#2 Comment By DR On June 11, 2018 @ 1:34 pm

There might be good reasons to shake up US’s relations with its friends and allies, but the fate of New Brunswick dairy farmers versus those of Wisconsin is probably not one of those.

#3 Comment By Michael Kenny On June 11, 2018 @ 1:59 pm

In fact, all this is just Trump’s standard tactic. First, he makes dire threats. Something he thinks his intended victim is scared of: nuclear attack on North Korea, trade sanctions, pulling out of NATO, snuggling up to Putin etc. If his victim offers to talk, which he interprets as capitulation, he makes what looks like a very good offer, to draw his victim further into his trap. Then, he suddenly backs out of the deal, citing some flimsy pretext, but upping the ante at the same time. It’s easy to see how that tactic might have worked with small sub-contractors in the NY building industry, making them compete against each other for his business. People go into business to make money. If submitting to being spat upon by Trump causes you to make money but refusing to submit puts you out of business, then the choice is clear. It doesn’t work in international relations. Political leaders cannot afford to be humiliated in front of their own populations. Submitting to being spat on by Trump puts them out of business. There again, the choice is clear. The other weakness in Trump’s tactic is that he has no Plan B. When his threats don’t work, he’s left standing there with his mouth open, not knowing what to do. He expected Kim Jong-un to come begging when he called off the summit. When he didn’t, it was Trump that had to go begging. When the G6 refused to give him the globalised free trade deal he wanted but intended to retaliate with counter-tariffs, he knew he had lost, didn’t know what to do next and blew his top. Kim Jong-un has already won his fight. If Trump doesn’t know that, he’ll find it out tomorrow. Trump needed to meet Kim as the unchallenged leader of the democratic world and he blew it. Either Trump walks out in a huff (what does he do then?) or he comes home with a pocketful of nothing. He will present whatever comes out of the meeting as a triumph but by 6 November, everyone will have figured out that he has in fact got nothing. The meeting with Kim as an “October surprise” might have won the election for the Republicans. The feeling might now be “impeach him before he does any more harm” and I sense that that is the author’s underlying view.

#4 Comment By Ryan W On June 11, 2018 @ 2:00 pm

I agree that it doesn’t make sense to have a group of the “wealthiest countries” that excludes China, but then again I think a similar argument can be made for India. Throw Russia in as well (which there’s good reason to do) and we’re already at G-10. I think the G-7 is becoming an archaic grouping, and it’s time to just disband it and focus on the G-20 instead.

#5 Comment By grumpy realist On June 11, 2018 @ 2:09 pm

Maybe what we’ll see is Trump deciding to take the US out of the G-7, whereupon we’ll be replaced by China, the up-and-coming kid on the block. Probably to everyone else’s relief.

50% of the top-level nanotech equipment worldwide is now being sold to China.

You have been warned….

Trump and his syncophants may think that the US is invariably going to be the biggest and meanest. They’re wrong.

#6 Comment By Stephen J. On June 11, 2018 @ 2:28 pm

Canada spent “$600-million” of Canadian taxpayers’ money on this fiasco. More detailed info on this at links below.

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#7 Comment By charles cosimano On June 11, 2018 @ 2:33 pm

I hope he has. Those so-called “allies” have never done anything but take our money, insult us and stab us in the back whenever they can. Russia and the Muslims are welcome to them.

Europe is worthless and good riddance to it.

#8 Comment By Kurt Gayle On June 11, 2018 @ 2:46 pm

Not surprising: When a US President stands up for American workers and their jobs, he gets hammered by the globalist elites and their media lackeys in the EU, Canada–not to mention among the usual pathetic globalist clique of establishment Republican and Democrat politicians.

But even long-time Canadian pundits like Lawrence Martin (today in Canada’s largest newspaper, the Globe & Mail) think that Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau needs a reality check. Mr. Martin writes:

“At the G-7, Trudeau decided to take [Trump] on…[but] he went too far. Prime Ministers have never publicly rebuked presidents this way. They’ve always couched their language…Ottawa now has precious few cards to play, a Canadian insider involved in trade negotiations told me. If it tries further retaliatory measures on top of its steel and aluminum ones, it risks further Trump reprisals. The big dog has all the advantages. While only 16% of US exports go to Canada, 72% of Canada’s go south…Mr. Trudeau has somehow to get bilateral relations back on the rails…The first order of business will be for him to try to set up a face-to-face with Mr. Trump. Peace talks are the priority.”

Indeed! The Canadian Prime Minister screwed up and now he needs to work to set things right!

#9 Comment By Memphis On June 11, 2018 @ 2:46 pm

I grow concerned when Max Boot is quoted to make a point. Sure, Trump lacks any tact and some policies are well off the mark, but he carries an electoral mandate on trade and multilateral institutions than Boot and Frum and many other armchair quarterbacks oppose.

#10 Comment By Kessler On June 11, 2018 @ 3:14 pm

Eh, something needs to shake those globalist elites awake from their stupor. The history has not ended and the world is not a safe, nice place, where you just do nice smiling fotos. Trump is doing immense good for the world, by reminding those complacent head-in-sand fools about it.

#11 Comment By LouisM On June 11, 2018 @ 3:29 pm

I think the situation between the US and Canada has been obvious for years but cloaked in diplomatically friendly relations.

I think Trump looks at Trudeau and Merkel as Obama loyalists, leftists, globalists, etc. The same people that are undermining his presidency and trying to get him impeached here in the US.

I also think Trump looks at Trudeau with contempt. Trump did get money from his father but with it he bought a hotel in downtown Manhattan at a time when no one wanted to invest in any downtown city. Trump went on to build an international company. Yes along the way Trump dealt with success and failure, honest people and corrupt people. HOWEVER, TRUDEAU ALSO GOT MONEY BUT LIVED OFF IT. TRUDEAU NEVER DID OR ACCOMPLISHED ANYTHING IN HIS LIFE. TRUDEAU WAS NOT EVEN A COMMUNITY ORGANIZER LIKE OBAMA WHICH TAKES NO BRAINS NOR DID TRUDEAU EVER WORK A REAL CORPORATE JOB OR HOLD A REAL GOVT OFFICE. I THINK THERE IS A SPECIAL SORT OF CONTEMPT FOR THE NAIVE MAN-CHILD WANTING LEFTIST APPROVAL AND TO PLAY WITH THE BIG KIDS WITHOUT HAVING EARNED IT.

Trudeau is like a nuisance fly that Trump or any one of his staff can swat at will because Trudeau is so inexperienced that he is easily setup and easily put down. Trudeau would never exist in any other country in the world. Its the luxury of Canada being next door to the US and never having to worry about a foreign power invading or the global competitiveness so Canadians go merrily along their way with their utopian leftist social justice and love of European socialism because there is no one to slap them back to reality as would happen anywhere else in the world. Australia is acutely aware of threats from immigration, threats from neighbors and potential threats from China. They still indulge in leftist ideologies but they also realize that they can only indulge to a limited extend before a neighboring power breaches their isolation and attempts to take advantage of Australia as a first world free society for their own nations interest or their own muslim religious interest etc. Trudeau is blindly and merrily oblivious to his own governments problems and even without a Trump, Canada is going to get slapped back into reality. However, I think Trump is more than happy to slap Trudeau silly on a world stage AND I THINK TRUMP WILL DO WHATEVER IT CAN SO TRUDEAU DOESNT GET RE-ELECTED.

#12 Comment By Dan Green On June 11, 2018 @ 4:47 pm

Just the beginning, if the Democrats are not successful impeaching this sitting President. With that said, my take is, the severe imbalance of Nato is next on the docket. Who the Democrats are going to run to replace Obama remains a mystery.

#13 Comment By Thomas Hamilton On June 11, 2018 @ 5:12 pm

The G7 not being a success is a good thing. It’s not as if the US arranged this meeting with the expectation that it would carry forward its own interests. It’s one of the many ritual celebrations of a failing world order, and for Trump to publicly disrespect it in such a way is precisely what critics of the “liberal international order”- who voted for Trump- are delighted to see.

#14 Comment By RenoDino On June 11, 2018 @ 5:14 pm

Thank you LouisM for your comments. Canada is nothing more than a country that survives on natural resource exploitation for its wealth. It is the last country in the world that should be preaching about the global warming.

Our allies are nothing more than vassal states who have been getting a free ride from the American Empire. Trump is handing them the bill for the protection we have provided for them at our expense and now they are crying foul.

They should be happy that we are not demanding more in the form of tribute.

#15 Comment By Whine Merchant On June 11, 2018 @ 6:01 pm

During the Viet Nam war there were bumper stickers supporting LBJ that read “My Country – Right or Wrong”. Under Nixon they were replaced by ones that read “My President – Right or Wrong”. Looks like the co-opted GOP leadership and retirees in front of their cable news feel nostalgia for the Nixon White House.

Just remember how that turned-out…MAGA!

#16 Comment By Kronos On June 11, 2018 @ 6:02 pm

LouisM said:
“I THINK TRUMP WILL DO WHATEVER IT CAN SO TRUDEAU DOESNT GET RE-ELECTED.”
Canada has done quite well in managing elections for 150 years. Unfortunately, it only chooses the people its own citizens want. Obviously, that old “democracy” idea is now going out of fashion, especially if a country might elect a leader Trump doesn’t approve of. Thanks for the heads-up, LouisM.

#17 Comment By SeanD On June 11, 2018 @ 6:13 pm

Good! The G7 meeting had nothing to do with “denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula [fat chance, we regime-changed Iraq and Libya because they DIDN’T have WMDs] or fighting Islamic terrorism [which should be NATO’s priority, but isn’t].” Best evidence is that the meeting was meant to railroad Trump into launching a war against Iran, Russia, or both: [12]

#18 Comment By grumpy realist On June 11, 2018 @ 6:29 pm

Amazing the number of people who think that Trump is a “great success!”

Given the family connections and the money that his father threw at him….could Trump have ever “failed”?

Which he managed to do, by the way. It takes a certain class of stupidity to go bankrupt while running a casino, no?

#19 Comment By KevinS On June 11, 2018 @ 6:33 pm

He is purposely or inadvertently destroying the Western alliances. Maybe the pee tape really does exist. I am increasingly becoming a peeliever…..

#20 Comment By Navy Board On June 11, 2018 @ 8:14 pm

One of the few things Trump does really well is tear off the mask of establishment hypocrisy.

Sure he’s alienating our European, Asian, and North American allies. They aren’t paying anybody off.

The only “friends” paying off Washington politicians with really big money are Israel and Saudi Arabia. So they’re the only countries getting favors done for them. If the Europeans want Trump to lift the tariffs, they’ve got to buy off Trump and the Republicans, like the Israelis and Saudis do.

Pay them off and they’ll send American troops to fight for your country if you’re invaded. Pay them really big sums, Sheldon Adelson-sized sums, and they’ll move the US embassy wherever you say, send American troops to die fighting your enemies, and they’ll even vote you billions of American tax dollars. All you got to do is pay off those politicians.

Money talks and BS walks, as the saying goes. Trump laid it out very plainly. And that’s what’s going on. He and the Republicans are draining the swamp straight into the bank accounts of themselves and their cronies.

#21 Comment By Ray Woodcock On June 11, 2018 @ 9:07 pm

I’ve seen a number of articles on the optics and politics of Trump’s behavior vis-a-vis other world leaders. I’ve seen very little hard information. Despite reading a fair amount daily, especially in the sense of keeping up with current media, I am pretty much uninformed on the big picture of trade dollars, joint projects, historical effects of tariffs, and other specifics that would seem relevant to the topic of America’s relationships with other nations.

I mean, the politics are important too. But reader comments here seem to demonstrate that people are being informed more by opinion than by analysis.

Not that it’s a bad thing to write about optics, as DePetris has done here. But the result can be a rather absurd sense that America’s relationship with Canada is being materially changed by Donald Trump. I doubt that’s true. But if it is, again: numbers, please. Not hand-wringing; not guesses.

#22 Comment By Murica F*** Yeah On June 11, 2018 @ 10:11 pm

I’m a self employed Canadian and support Trump in his decision. You can’t have a free market when one country operates as such, but the other country subsidizes their businesses heavily and the majority of the economy is made up by Crown of England owned corporations that operate on Canadian taxpayer dollars. President Trump’s stance, as undiplomatically as it may have been relayed, will have a positive impact on Canadian small businesses owners and entrepreneurs looking to enter markets that were formerly monopolized by the crown.

#23 Comment By Youknowho On June 11, 2018 @ 10:27 pm

#24 Comment By Traveler On June 11, 2018 @ 11:44 pm

Later that same day on Lawrence Martin’s Twitter:

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I’m not entirely sure that Lawrence Martin is exactly strengthening your point, Kurt Gayle. If anything, he’s accurately calling a spade a spade.

#25 Comment By Traveler On June 11, 2018 @ 11:57 pm

For some reason Twitter didn’t want to copy-pasta, so here’s the quote:

“True. What Trudeau said, as I point out in column, was accurate. And he’s right. But had he used softer terms, the thin-skinned egomanic [sic] president would not have blown up and the summit would have been saved.”

#26 Comment By S On June 12, 2018 @ 12:25 am

Many are the empires that have fallen because they failed to have any allies. Obama also bullied his European vassals, but was able to do so without creating an ugly scene. I don’t commend a Nobel peace prize winner who starts many wars- but surely there are better ways of making changes.

#27 Comment By Lenny On June 12, 2018 @ 12:58 am

Is the transatlantic community dying a slow and painful death? Is the world order as we’ve known it for over 70 years starting to unravel? Are the United States and Europe about to cut ties and go their own way? Not necessarily: Washington, Brussels, London, and Tokyo still have plenty of mutual national security interests that bind them together.

Not for long.Putin wants results and Trump is delivering

#28 Comment By Lenny On June 12, 2018 @ 1:02 am

America can damage the Canadian economy, by making Americans pay more for products made in Canada, just like they did with the wood and now with the steel. Every one who uses steel knows the prices have gone up 50% since last year, before the tariffs were even levied, just on the fear they might happen

So if Trump’s tactic is to force Canada to surrender to a one way deal that will damage Canada, what is the incentive for Canada?

The art of no deal?

#29 Comment By Lenny On June 12, 2018 @ 1:05 am

After the fall of France , Churchill faced huge pressure to negotiate with Hitler. He refused and Britain , and Canada, stood alone facing the Nazi threats for almost a year.

Had he accepted, the third Reich would have triumphed

Next time anyone think our allies have done nothing, think

#30 Comment By Tom Usher On June 12, 2018 @ 10:33 am

Right, Louis M, but Trudeau came off looking intelligent, calm, and analytic. In your case, the use of uppercase is pretty powerful, good work.

Trump came off looking like Trump, who daily humiliates our country. He reminds one of Nixon, who also showed an amazing talent for squeezing the American pimple until it popped. The difference is the frequency and pace, both greatly accelerated by The Boy King.

#31 Comment By GregR On June 12, 2018 @ 12:54 pm

One thing that is missing her his that by acting like an imbecile Trump has made it much easier for foreign countries to weather the hard of a trade war with the US. Ignore the Canadian politicians for a moment at look at the polling of the Canadian people. They are uniformly in favor of ramping up pressure on the US, and if it harms their economy a little it is a harm they are willing to suffer to strike back at Trump, if not the US.

Whats worse Trump has managed to do this to every single one of our major trading partners. Europe may be fractured in many ways, but right now the populace seems more than happy to go without Harley’s and Jack Daniels if it means Trump suffers from even a little pain.

The only way to win a trade war is to isolate a country and make them hurt economically. Trump has so far managed the first (he has certainly isolated the US), and the rest of the world is about to lower the boom on the US economically.

You want to know what real pain looks like… imagine if the G7+China placed export tariffs on steel and aluminum to the US of 25%. Our industries would grind to a halt, all manufacturing would become just for US consumption and millions of Americans would loose their jobs. But hey, Trump would get what he wants, the steel industry in the US would be rolling in cash.

#32 Comment By Sean On June 12, 2018 @ 6:05 pm

LouisM, what would an invasion of Canada look like? Russia could certainly launch missiles [that America couldn’t bring down]…could they land troops? Any meaningful numbers would necessitate Carnival Ship bookings. Same for any large army, save one. The one that’s invaded four times…need a hint?

#33 Comment By Barry On June 12, 2018 @ 6:37 pm

Memphis says:

“I grow concerned when Max Boot is quoted to make a point. Sure, Trump lacks any tact and some policies are well off the mark, but he carries an electoral mandate on trade and multilateral institutions than Boot and Frum and many other armchair quarterbacks oppose.”

I fail to recall any right-winger saying the same thing about President Obama.

#34 Comment By Youknowho On June 13, 2018 @ 7:26 am

When it comes to fighting a trade war, Canada can do as Mexico did: design the tariffs to hurt Trump’s base mostly.

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#35 Comment By Stephen J. On June 13, 2018 @ 10:12 am

June 12, 2018
“The Bloody Hypocrisy Regarding the G7 Meeting”

After and before the G7 meeting ended, the establishment were going bananas. Like monkeys seeking fruit, the political leaders of various countries, along with their media and establishment allies, started heaping blame on Donald Trump for their fruitless meeting. Their screams, squeals, and bedlam of noise emanated around the world. It seemed Donald Trump had upset the “international order” and “the system.”…
[read more at link below]
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