Trump's Weekend: The G-7 And Singapore

Jun 10, 2018
Originally published on June 11, 2018 11:41 am
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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

President Trump has arrived in Singapore, and while he's moving on to Tuesday's meeting with Kim Jong Un of North Korea, he's left behind some hard feelings in Canada. He finished meetings there yesterday with his fellow heads of the G-7, the seven big industrialized countries, and immediately insulted the host, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau - that after threatening the group of traditional American allies with more trade barriers. Let's turn to NPR's Mara Liasson for more on this. Good morning, Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So when I say America's traditional allies, I'm talking about Canada, the U.K., France, Germany, Italy and Japan. So how'd this summit go? And give us some detail on how it ended.

LIASSON: The big news is that after this G-7 summit, the president is more at odds with America's allies than ever before. A few hours after the U.S. announced that it would be signing a joint communique with the other countries, the president changed his mind, decided not to sign it because - in a tweet, of course - because he was angry about comments that the prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, made in a press conference where Trudeau said he felt insulted that the U.S. was calling Canada a national security threat, that he would stand up to the U.S. and that he would retaliate to the U.S. tariffs with tariffs of his own. All those things are some things that Justin Trudeau has been saying for a while, but this was just the latest in a confusing series of events.

At one point, Donald Trump brought up the dramatic prospect of completely eliminating tariffs on goods and services in the G-7, which, if he followed through on that, would be the ultimate free trade move. But he also threatened to put new tariffs on autos. He threatened to suspend all trade with the G-7 if they didn't stop what he said were unfair trade practices. So all of this whiplash at the summit came just a day before he was about to land in Singapore to have a summit with the North Korean leader where presumably, eventually, he'll be asking Kim Jong Un to take him at his word.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Right. You know, let's move to the summit in Singapore. And the president is there now. I'd like to - I'd like to hear what he's been saying about what he expects to happen there.

LIASSON: He's been downplaying expectations for the summit. He's gone from it will be easy to denuclearize to it might take a while, it might take several meetings, this is just a getting-to-know-you session. He was asked in Canada, how will he know if the North Koreans are serious about denuclearizing? He said he would know it very, very quickly.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think within the first minute I'll know.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How?

TRUMP: Just my touch, my feel - that's what I do.

LIASSON: Touch and feel - it kind of reminded some people about George W. Bush looking into Vladimir Putin's eyes and seeing his soul - not necessarily a good basis for international relations.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, and speaking of Russia, there was another extraordinary thing that happened at the G-7. The president made some waves there when he mentioned Russia.

LIASSON: Yes. He said Russia should come back into the G-7. He said it used to be the G8, but, quote, "something happened." That something, of course, was that Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea. For the first time since World War II, a sovereign nation in Europe was invaded. But all of this rancor at the G-7 might not just alienate allies but also, international experts say, it might strengthen the hand of Russia and China. China in particular has been arguing that the U.S. is no longer a reliable global superpower. Russia has been trying to weaken the Western alliance, the EU and NATO for years. Now, they seem to have a helper.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, and not to mention that they also interfered in the U.S. elections. So, you know, President Trump is in Singapore, and he's meeting with the North Korean leader. And what is fresh in everyone's mind is a growing divergence between the U.S. and all of America's longtime allies.

LIASSON: That's right. That is the backdrop for this meeting, which is quite extraordinary. The U.S. allies are worried that the president is rejecting 70 years of a rules-based international order that the United States created and led. And, of course, what he's about to do is sit down with Kim Jong Un, who used to be called member of the axis of evil by a former American president. And he's going to be asking him to make a promise. He's going to be offering something in return, and he wants Kim Jong Un to believe him. And diplomacy requires a certain amount of trust and consistency, and that certainly wasn't the theme of this week's meeting at the G-7.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: No, it certainly wasn't. That's NPR's Mara Liasson. Mara, thank you so much.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.