Categories Search

‘America First’ Really Is Turning Out to Be America Alone

Video Preview

The Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, was less than forty-eight hours away from hosting the biggest diplomatic gathering of his career when I spoke with one of his top advisers afternoon. Trudeau’s team was searching for strategies to salvage the annual G-7 summit with the American President, Donald Trump, and leaders of five of the world’s other large democratic economies—all of them close allies of the United States, and all of them furious with Trump, reported The New Yorker (US).

“Look, he personally decided he wanted to be fighting with everybody,” the Trudeau aide told me, referring to Trump. “Maybe he thinks it’s in his best interests to be combative and fighting.”

For close to a year and a half, Trudeau and his counterparts have employed various strategies to try to head off conflict with the volatile American President, from flattery to stonewalling to hours of schmoozing on the golf course. But in recent weeks Trump has confounded their efforts, unleashing a tit-for-tat trade war with allies, blowing up the Iran nuclear deal over European objections, and walking away from a deal with Canada and Mexico to overhaul Nafta, all while lavishing praise on the North Korean dictator with whom he hopes to reach an accord next week. Adding insult to injury, Trump even cited an obscure national-security provision to justify the tariffs, as if America’s closest friends had suddenly become its biggest enemies. As a result, the G-7 meeting that Trudeau will host on Friday and Saturday was shaping up to be the most contentious, and possibly the most consequential, since the summits began, in 1975.

Trump’s chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, told the White House press corps that this was all just a “family quarrel,” but, if so, it’s one ugly fight. As Kudlow acknowledged the rift, Trudeau and France’s President, Emmanuel Macron, were meeting to plot strategy, and everyone was wondering why Trump, who is often described as averse to face-to-face conflict, had chosen the weeks preceding the annual G-7 summit to punch his allies in the face. In the days leading up to the meeting, Trump had tense phone calls with Trudeau, Britain’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, and Macron, who has been especially humiliated by the series of adverse decisions after flying to Washington to lobby Trump personally. All of them appear to fix blame on Trump himself. “We’ve gotten used to unorthodox behavior from your President,” the Trudeau adviser said.

For his part, Trump seems to relish the confrontation he has unleashed and is spoiling for more. The President tweeted that he was “getting ready to go to the G-7 in Canada to fight for our country on Trade,” insisting, as he often does, that “we have the worst trade deals ever made.” But others involved in the summit were preparing for an America more alone than ever before, and now Trump faces the very real risk of allies teaming up against him. “The American president may not mind being isolated, but neither do we mind signing a 6 country agreement if need be,” Macron tweeted pointedly to Trump, in English. Trump quickly fired back. “Please tell Prime Minister Trudeau and President Macron that they are charging the U.S. massive tariffs and create non-monetary barriers,” the President tweeted. “Look forward to seeing them tomorrow.” Soon after that, the White House said in a statement that Trump would skip the second day of the summit entirely, and it seemed increasingly certain that the traditional joint communiqué signed off on by all seven leaders will be discarded because of Trump.
Instead, the Trudeau adviser told me, the Canadian Prime Minister, as the summit’s host, was likely simply to release a “statement from the chair,” summarizing the discussions without requiring Trump to approve it. The American President has blundered his way into “opening a four-front-at-least war simultaneously,” the Trudeau adviser said, and now the goal of the summit has become unlike any other that preceded it: “to get allies together to try to contain the amount of damage he’s doing.”

Ever since Trump took office, America’s allies have desperately sought to avoid this moment. Over the last year and a half, though, many of them have come to realize, with growing dread, that it was inevitable. The rift between the world’s great democracies that Trump’s election portended is coming to pass, and it is about far more than Iran policy, obscure trade provisions, or whether Germany spends two per cent of its G.D.P. on Nato. Many senior European officials speak of it, as one Ambassador to Washington did to me recently, as nothing less than a “crisis of the West.”

As Trump’s dramatic moves have played out this spring and hardened into a Presidential narrative of American victimization at the hands of free-riding allies, senior government officials in London, Berlin, and other European capitals, and in Washington, have told me they now worry that Trump may be a greater immediate threat to the alliance than even authoritarian great-power rivals, such as Russia and China. Equally striking is the extent to which America’s long-term allies have no real strategy for coping with the challenges posed by such an American President. Trump may be reorienting U.S. foreign policy away from its closest friends, such as Great Britain and Germany, and toward those with whom Trump is more politically aligned in Israel, the Gulf, and along Europe’s restive fringes, but his traditional partners have no real strategy for how to respond.

Last year, the German Foreign Office embarked on what two sources described to me as its first-ever effort to produce an America strategy aimed at answering that question, with the goal of producing a strategy document similar to those it has for adversaries. “Essentially, it’s an overhaul of German foreign policy,” a senior German official told me, “since the key assumption being called into question is the total reliance we have on the friendship with the U.S.” Work on the new strategy began after Trump’s Inauguration but accelerated last spring, after the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, returned from Trump’s initial foray into international summitry rattled by him and announced that “Europeans must really take our fate into our own hands.” The painful realization, the senior German official said, was that “we might get to a situation where we see Americans not only as friends and partners but also as competitors and adversaries. We don’t want to do that. That is how we treat other great powers around the globe, like Russia and China.”

Until now, allies have been notably divided on how to handle Trump, largely settling on an approach that Charles Kupchan, who served as President Barack Obama’s senior director for Europe at the National Security Council, characterized as “limit the damage and run out the clock.” Trump’s recent confrontational moves, however, have made it all but impossible for allies to continue with their policy of “don’t give in but don’t give up,” as Kupchan described it. In interviews in Europe and Washington over the last week, I heard a new tone of anguish and concern as the extent and consequences of the rift have become more clear. “They cruised through 2017 and they thought everything was fine,” Julianne Smith, a former Pentagon official and deputy national-security adviser for Vice-President Joe Biden who now heads the transatlantic program at the Center for a New American Security, told me. “Now he is doing in 2018 what he threatened to do, and it’s ‘Oh, no, I feel the shock and awe’ and ‘What can we do?’ ”

***

The United States and European Union will establish a dialogue on trade within the next two weeks, a French official said, signalling a modest step forward for bitterly divided allies at a Group of Seven summit in Canada, reported The New Indian Express (India).

U.S. trading partners have been furious over President Donald Trump's decision last week to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from Canada, the European Union and Mexico as part of his "America First" agenda. Some countries have retaliated with their own levies on U.S. imports.

"The principle of a dialogue was agreed this afternoon," the French official told reporters. "Everyone agreed, including President Trump."

While G7 leaders confronted Trump with a slew of data on imports and exports in a bid to sway his thinking, Trump countered his own numbers and held his position that the United States was at a disadvantage on international trade, an official who followed the talks said.

But Trump struck a more affable tone after a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, saying the French leader was helping work out trade issues.

"Something's going to happen. I think it will be very positive," Trump said, without giving details.
Macron said it was possible to advance the trade issues that have split the U.S. and its allies.

"I think, on trade, there is ... a way to progress all together," he told reporters after his meeting with Trump. "I saw the willingness on all the sides to find agreements and have a win-win approach for our people, our workers, and our middle classes."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday floated an idea to set up a way to resolve trade disputes between the United States and its allies. An official described Merkel's suggestion as a "shared assessment and dialogue" mechanism, but gave no further details. It was unclear if the technical talks were part of her initiative.

The proposal was supported by other leaders present, the official said. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker offered to visit Washington for an assessment of EU-US trade to help resolve the dispute, an official said.

Expectations for a major breakthrough on trade at the summit, however, remain low, with U.S. allies focused on avoiding rupturing the G7, which in its 42-year history has tended to seek consensus on major issues.

"It's highly unlikely there will be a final communique," a G7 official said on condition of anonymity.

Merkel said it was not clear whether the group would issue a final directive, adding that failure to do so would be an honest reflection of the lack of agreement among Canada, the United States, Japan, Britain, Italy, France and Germany. The EU is also attending the summit.

Trump had set a combative tone before leaving Washington, saying he was "going to deal with the unfair trade practices" of other G7 members.

But he was more affable after meeting Macron and Trudeau, swapping jokes with the latter before the media though neither budged on their trade positions.

"We've had really a very good relationship, very special," the U.S. president said of Macron, a day after the two leaders had exchanged terse messages on Twitter. "We have little tests every once in a while when it comes to trade."

Merkel and Trump also had a brief conversation at the summit but no bilateral meeting.

Trump’s "America First" message to allies has hardened since he brought hardline national security adviser John Bolton on to his team.

Trump plans to leave the summit four hours earlier than originally planned to fly to Singapore to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the White House said.

G7 chiefs have largely praised Trump for his efforts to stabilise the Korean peninsula, but they are unhappy he pulled out of an international agreement to limit Iran's nuclear ambitions.

INVESTORS NERVOUS
Canada and the EU have denounced the U.S. tariffs and Ottawa has proposed levies on a range of U.S. goods next month while the EU has pledged its own retaliatory measures.

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday warned both Trump and the EU of the dangers of entering a tit-for-tat trade war over tariffs, urging both sides to instead focus on China's excess steel production.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said her country "will not change its mind when it comes to the illegal" application of tariffs.

The spat has financial markets worried about tit-for-tit escalation.

Investors are also concerned about the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump has threatened to terminate. Canada and Mexico, the other members of the 1994 pact, have been frustrated by the slow pace of talks to renegotiate NAFTA.

A Canadian official said Trump and Trudeau discussed accelerating NAFTA talks.

RUSSIA'S SHADOW
Relations with Russia also became an issue at the summit after Trump said the country should be allowed to again attend meetings with the G7, an idea that did not gain much traction at the meeting and was not formally raised.

Russia was suspended from group in 2014 because of its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. Trump said Russia should be readmitted, but even Moscow seemed to reject that suggestion.

Merkel said EU countries at the summit agreed that the conditions to readmit Russia had not been met.

Trump's presidency has been clouded by a federal investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, and possible collusion by his campaign. Both Moscow and Trump have denied the allegations.

show source

Rating: (0)
Location: Show map
Location: Show map
Tags: u.s., trade war, G7
Share report:
Share on Facebook
If you want to buy or a sell a report
go to marketplace
Marketplace

Comment report: