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Expect a contentious G7 amid Trump’s escalating trade battle

Diplomatic pleasantries on Thursday didn’t mask the widening rift between the U.S. and its closest allies over new tariffs that threaten to spark a trade war. Yamiche Alcindor joins Judy Woodruff to offer a preview of the G7 summit in Canada.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Tomorrow, President Trump joins leaders of other wealthy nations in Canada at the Group of Seven meeting outside Quebec City.

    But Mr. Trump's recent moves on trade and tariffs have transformed a normally staid affair into a meeting of allies divided and wary of the United States.

    Yamiche Alcindor previews the G7 summit.

  • President Donald Trump:

    He's the number one celebrity in Japan.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    President Trump talked golf with Japanese Prime Minister Abe in the Oval Office. But diplomatic pleasantries could hardly mask the widening rift between the U.S. and its closest allies.

    The most contentious topic? New U.S. tariffs that threaten to spark a trade war.

  • President Donald Trump:

    We're working hard to reduce our trade imbalance, which is very substantial, because, I will tell you, over the years it has been an extraordinarily weak trade policy.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Meanwhile, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hosted French President Emmanuel Macron ahead of tomorrow's meeting. Trudeau had tough words for Mr. Trump.

  • Justin Trudeau:

    His unacceptable actions are hurting his own citizens. It is American jobs which will be lost because of the actions of the United States and its administration.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The president has railed against trade agreements, even with America's closest allies, accusing the E.U., Canada and Japan of taking advantage of the U.S.

  • President Donald Trump:

    They charge five times what we charge for tariffs. And I believe in the word reciprocal. You're going to charge five times, we're going to charge five times.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    President Trump announced last month that the E.U. and Canada would face new tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum. The E.U. quickly countered with its own list of tariffs on American steel and food products.

    The president's economic adviser Larry Kudlow has insisted the gaps with G7 members aren't too wide to bridge.

  • Larry Kudlow:

    I regard this as much like a family quarrel. I'm always the optimist. I believe it can be worked out.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    James Stavridis is a former NATO supreme allied commander, and now is dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University.

    He expects a rocky meeting.

  • James Stavridis:

    I cannot think of a time when we have walked into negotiations without a common sense of how to go forward. It's a shocking departure.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The escalating trade battle is only one front where President Trump has split with longtime allies. He pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal last month, and decided to exit the Paris climate accord last year.

    Macron warned that President Trump's course change was damaging alliances and the credibility of the U.S.

  • Emmanuel Macron (through translator):

    If they continue towards a form of isolationism, brutal hegemony, of distancing themselves from their own history, from their own values, from the role they play in international organizations, where they are leaders, by deciding to remove themselves, that will be bad for the United States of America.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Stavridis said vital American relationships are under enormous pressure.

  • James Stavridis:

    Increasingly, there is a gap between the United States and the rest of our allies in the G7. It is over Iran. It's over climate. It's over terrorists. It's over a sense of whether or not America wants to engage in the world or not.

    Those distinctions are widening, not closing, and that is greatly, greatly to be feared.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    With those differences looming, it's unclear whether G7 members can even agree on a joint communique by the summit's end on Saturday — Judy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Yamiche, you are at the site of the media center for reporters who are covering the summit. You're in Quebec.

    Let me ask you, the people you talk to, how do they think the president's trade actions will affect the G7 as a group?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    American officials that I have talked to who are used to dealing with these kinds of summits says the G7 is actually facing a historic and shocking shift. They say that there's a leadership vacuum.

    The United States used to play a really big role on promoting multilateral agreements and free trade. But President Trump is backing away from that. So, they're now saying that the G7 might not play the same role that it's playing, which is really to be a guidance for free trade all over the world.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, Yamiche, with so many disagreements, what do the people you talk to — how contentious do they think this summit is going to be?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    These conversations are likely going to be very tough. People are likely going to be arguing. The leaders of Canada and France have already come out and said that they're going to try to push President Trump to reverse those controversial tariffs on steel and aluminum.

    The other thing is that the summit in North Korea that is happen next week might also hijack some of the conversations that Justin Trudeau wants to have here. So, we expect there to be very tough conversations here. And everyone that I have talked to thinks that there are going to be some arguments.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Yamiche Alcindor, preparing to cover the summit that gets under way tomorrow. Thank you, Yamiche.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Thanks, Judy.

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