Two Tweets and an Insult Spoil G-7 Unity
Just when it seemed like the Group of Seven summit had come to a surprisingly uneventful end, President Donald Trump stepped in with two tweets that blew up the whole thing.
The leaders of some of the world’s largest economies had worked late into the night to craft a final message from their meeting in Quebec, finding a careful balance between their concerns and Trump’s, particularly on trade. Late Saturday afternoon, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau formally announced that all seven leaders had agreed to the final communique and then took questions about his interactions with Trump. All of his answers tracked with what he’s said in the past, but they set Trump off.
Already halfway through his trip from Quebec to Singapore for his meeting with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un, Trump tweeted from Air Force One that he had instructed his aides to pull out of the communique, pinning the blame on Trudeau’s “very dishonest & weak” approach.
While end-of-summit statements aren’t usually world-changers, Trump’s move was highly unusual, a sign of aggression toward a host who believed he’d just finished out a successful event and a reminder that with Trump, no deal is final.
Behind the scenes | The G-7 leaders gathered Saturday, after huddling late into the night, to hash out a statement they thought they could all agree to. Trump ultimately dashed those hopes, but it was that session that produced the summit’s iconic image or, to be more precise, images. Click here to read more about the photographic arms race and to see the competing images.
You only get one shot | Just before leaving for Singapore and his summit with Kim Jong Un, Trump said the North Korean leader has a “one-time shot” to show he’s serious about reaching a deal on his arsenal. Expectations were tempered to the extent that a good outcome might just be to agree to keep talking. Either way, Trump said, he’ll quickly get the measure of Kim: “I think within the first minute, I’ll know.”
Every Group of Something summit since 1975 has ended with some sort of recap, a document that’s always carefully parsed. John Kirton, director of the University of Toronto’s G-7 Research Group, walked us through the process by which communiques are assembled and released — and why it matters. Click here for a video refresher by Bloomberg’s TicToc on the G-7 and how it came into existence.
Back from the cold | Russian President Vladimir Putin was booted from the G-8 after his annexation of Crimea in 2014. According to Trump, it’s time to end the exile and he floated the idea twice, first as he made his way to the summit and then again in his closing press conference. The idea gained no traction; it was rebuffed by other G-7 leaders and even the Kremlin said it had no interest in rejoining the group. One U.S. lawmaker responded with a two-word tweet: “Uhhhhh nope.”
The other trade fight | Trump used the G-7 meeting to renew his threat to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement and pursue separate deals with Canada and Mexico. Still, he said there had been good talks on an updated agreement (talks to revamp Nafta started nearly a year ago). “If a deal isn’t made, that would be a very bad thing for Canada and it would be a very bad thing for Mexico,” Trump said. “For the United States, frankly, it would be a good thing. But I’m not looking to do that. I’m not looking to play that game.”
And finally… While the meeting was widely expected to be the most acrimonious in years, and eventually ended in tears, it was Trump himself who briefly brought some comic relief. During a meeting with Trudeau, Trump jokingly thanked him for removing all trade barriers (he hadn’t). At his meeting with President Emmanuel Macron, Trump wisecracked how it would be “very hard” to beat him at arm wrestling. Trump even made fun of his early departure. When Trudeau was asked if he was disappointed by the exit, Trump quipped: “No, he’s happy.”