President Donald Trump threw down a gauntlet on trade Saturday, threatening to cut other nations off entirely if they do not eliminate tariffs on U.S. goods, as a testy G7 economic summit wrapped up in Quebec City, Canada.
While praising free trade in theory, Trump demanded an end to tariffs on U.S. goods, which he called “ridiculous and unacceptable.” And he did not hesitate at trying to force other nations’ hands.
“It’s going to stop,” the president told reporters during a press conference. “Or we’ll stop trading with them. And that’s a very profitable answer, if we have to do it.”
“We’re like the piggy bank that everybody’s robbing, and that ends,” Trump said later.
The comments deliver on Trump’s promise during the 2016 presidential campaign to end trade deals and security treaties that he has said benefit America’s allies at the nation’s expense. Trump has made “America First” an unofficial slogan for his administration.
The fraught, contentious summit was like none other in memory, upending decades of international cooperation on trade and policy with America’s most steadfast allies, from Canada, Japan and Europe. He doubled down on the criticism during private meetings with his counterparts, according to The New York Times, which wrote that he was met by substantial pushback.
Asked Saturday about his meetings with other world leaders, Trump sought however to downplay the tension.
“It was not contentious,” he said, according to The Washington Post. “What was strong was the language that this cannot go on, but the relationships are very good.”
But the tension between Trump and America’s allies was visible in a picture tweeted Saturday by German government spokesperson Steffen Seibert.
It shows German Chancellor Angela Merkel leaning over a table toward Trump, who sits with his arms crossed defiantly. The two appear to face off as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe and U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton look on behind them.
— Steffen Seibert (@RegSprecher) June 9, 2018
“Second day of the G7 Summit in Canada,” Seibert captioned the photo, according to a translation. “Deliberations on the fringes of the official agenda.”
At the press conference Saturday, Trump said his administration is still renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico. If the U.S. cannot reach a new trilateral agreement, Trump said, then it may seek separate trade agreements with the two countries.
This week’s conference comes after Trump imposed steel and aluminum tariffs on the European Union, Canada, and Mexico last month, sparking immediate retaliation from the U.S. allies.
Meanwhile, Trump is moving ahead with an upcoming summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and called on Friday for the G-7 to readmit Russia, which was expelled in 2014 for forcibly annexing part of Ukraine.
These moves are the clearest sign yet that Trump intends to shake up an international trade and security order built by the U.S. after World War II and carefully cultivated since then by successive administrations, Republican and Democrat.
That international order appears to be in disarray now, almost everyone agrees, including the US leader largely responsible for the upheaval.
“It’s like the gig is up,” Trump said Saturday of the way other countries have treated the U.S. on trade. “They can’t believe they got away with it.”
As soon as the summit ended in Canada, after alienating America’s most steadfast allies, Donald Trump jetted for Singapore for a historic meeting with Kim Jong Un — one of the few world leaders who might be even more erratic and unpredictable than he is.