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The significance of the G-7 acrimony

President Trump on Saturday used Twitter to send angry messages about the G-7 summit he had just left. Trump tweeted that he would not endorse a joint-communique released at the end of the summit and attacked Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for being “very dishonest and weak.” Washington Post’s Damian Paletta joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Last night, while flying to Singapore, President Trump diverted attention from his upcoming historic summit using Twitter to send angry messages about the G7 summit he had just left. Mr. Trump tweeted that he would not endorse a joint communique released at the end of the summit and attacked Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for being "very dishonest and weak." In a news conference yesterday, the Canadian prime minister had just announced that Canada would move forward with retaliatory tariffs in reaction to proposed U.S. tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum. The president's tweets were personal. He said Trudeau "acted so meek and mild" during the G7 meetings "only to give a news conference after I left saying that 'U.S. tariffs were kind of insulting' and he 'will not be pushed around.'" This morning, White House economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said that Trudeau's actions were "a betrayal," and the president was right to push back.

  • LARRY KUDLOW:

    He is not going to permit any show of weakness on the trip to negotiate with North Korea, nor should he.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    White House trade adviser Peter Navarro added to the attacks calling Mr. Trump's attendance at the G7 a "courtesy" and accused the Canadian Prime Minister of acting in "bad faith".

  • PETER NAVARRO:

    "There's a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump, and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Senators from both parties weighed in on Mr Trump's decision. Republican Sen. John McCain tweeted "To our allies: bipartisan majorities of Americans remain pro-free trade, pro-globalization, and supportive of alliances based on 70 years of shared values. Americans stand with you, even if our president doesn't." Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein also criticized the decision not to endorse the G7 agreement.

  • DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

    And it seems to me, not to sign a statement of solidarity — which stands for everything that we stand for — is a big mistake.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Joining us now to unravel this rapid turn of international events is Washington Post reporter Damian Paletta. Damien, we don't usually talk about the day after a G5, G6, G7, G8 summit as such a controversial or newsworthy event. But where are things now? Last night at the end of the program, I said there was a communique, all of the countries agreed to it, but that's not the case anymore.

  • DAMIAN PALETTA:

    No. As a matter of fact, I mean this is really a huge international incident. We had the president of the United States agree with six other leading economies to this joint statement about trade and free trade. And then, the president got on Air Force One to fly to Singapore for his North Korea meeting, saw some comments that the Canadian prime minister made — Justin Trudeau — where he essentially said 'we're not going to be pushed around by the United States.' And then, Trump was irate and withdrew from the communique. Now practically, it doesn't really matter — it's just a piece of paper. But symbolically, it's incredibly significant and I think we're seeing a real unraveling of the U.S.'s relationship with some of its closest allies as these countries really start to stand up to the president.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Let's put this in sort of concrete terms — the United States has a huge group of consumers that rely on goods and services from all over the world. And obviously these countries rely on our consumers to make sure that they're selling. But what happens, in practical terms, in a trade war or a situation where these other major countries decide to have more restrictive policies on our products?

  • DAMIAN PALETTA:

    The most practical way is two ways. First of all, prices on virtually everything that American consumers buy, up and down the food chain from the lowest income Americans to the wealthiest Americans, those prices will go up. Because if the things are not created in the United States, they're going to be incredibly expensive based on the tariffs that must be paid when they're brought in to the United States. So costs on cars, electronics, even some food — coffee — you know, everything that's part of your daily life, those costs will go up. And secondly, it would have a huge impact on American jobs if other countries just stopped importing the things that are produced the United States. That means those companies will have less revenue, they'll lay off workers, then it will snowball, and we could quickly see this become a huge great recession if these things escalate even further. And what's amazing is this is not the United States and China squaring off or the United States and another adversary. These are the United States and their biggest trading partners: the European Union and Canada. And so you know, how this goes is really hard to see. But it's going in a bad direction.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right the president yesterday had very different types of options on the table. On the one hand, he said to people, 'Listen, how about the possibility of a completely free trade zone between all of our countries.' Now on the other hand, he was saying, 'You know if we can't work these things out, we're just going to stop trading altogether.'

  • DAMIAN PALETTA:

    Exactly. And I think that's one of the reasons that, you know, our allies — the U.S. allies — feel so kind of confused and they have whiplash. Because the president on the one hand, is proposing the most free trade policy of all time which is essentially no tariffs. We just trade back and forth with one another and you know we sell our goods to your country and you sell your goods to this country with no tariff. And then he says 'we're going to stop trading, period, if you don't agree to our demands.' And so, like I said there does seem to be a sense. One thing that I noted about this G7, there is a sense that these other countries are starting to stand up to President Trump, especially the French president, Emmanuel Macron. Obviously, Justin Trudeau is starting to stiffen a little bit as well. The UK and Germany — they're starting to call his bluff and what we're seeing is, he's saying 'Fine if that's what you're going to do,' and if he's going to feel personally insulted, then he's going to sort of ratchet it up.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Speaking of standing up for the president — one of the images that has come out of this and there's now a thousand different memes around the image: Angela Merkel surrounded by other leaders, Theresa May, Emmanuel Macron. You've got literally the world standing up, almost all of them standing together, then you see President Trump seated in a chair. And what's interesting is it really depends on who you are and how you look at this very same image, that you can have so many different interpretations of it.

  • DAMIAN PALETTA:

    Yeah I think that photograph is going to be studied quite honestly for decades because it sort of reinforces both of the perspectives. On the one hand, it shows the Europeans standing together, standing up to the president, and confronting him. I believe at the time they were discussing this document that was supposed to be signed at the end of the meeting. Now the other hand, you have the president with all eyes on him, right, which is exactly what he wants in this sort of setting. He wants everyone to be coming to him, asking him kind of what U.S. policy and global policy should be. So I think both sides kind of felt like they delivered their message. But on the other hand, I feel like both sides must feel like this conference, this summit was kind of a disaster because things are only going to escalate. And really, you know, producers and workers and consumers in each country are going to suffer if this thing continues on the path that it's on.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right, Damian Paletta of the Washington Post. Thanks so much for joining us today.

  • DAMIAN PALETTA:

    My pleasure, thank you.

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