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As trade war looms, G7 leaders, Canadian, U.S. politicians rally around Trudeau

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Monday, June 11, 2018 – Page A1

An all-out trade war looms as Donald Trump and his advisers lashed out at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for declaring Canada won't be "pushed around" by the U.S. President over the contentious tariff dispute on steel and aluminum.

An infuriated Mr. Trump called the Prime Minister "very dishonest and weak" on Twitter Saturday, threatened to impose tariffs on automobiles and dispatched top aides to U.S. network shows on Sunday to lambaste Mr. Trudeau as a "backstabber" who deserved a "special place in hell."

In the wake of the confrontation, G7 leaders, Mr. Trudeau's political opponents at home and a number of U.S. politicians rallied around the Prime Minister.

Mr. Trudeau avoided the media on Sunday, but Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters in Quebec City that Ottawa would not engage in a war of words with the Trump administration. Ms. Freeland spoke to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Sunday, and is expected to meet with him again on Wednesday in Washington.

"Canada does not conduct its diplomacy through ad hominem attacks. We don't think that that is a useful or productive way to do business," Ms. Freeland said. But she said Ottawa won't be bullied and will hit back with $16-billion of retaliatory tariffs if the U.S. doesn't rescind its penalties on steel and aluminum imposed last week.

"Our retaliatory tariffs will come into effect - perfectly reciprocal, perfectly measured, a dollar-for-dollar response - on July 1, which is Canada Day, perhaps not inappropriate," she said.

Mr. Trump continued his Twitter attacks Monday on the Prime Minister, saying that "Justin acts hurt when called out." The U.S. President also claimed that Canada had bragged about making "almost 100 Billion Dollars in Trade" with the United States, while failing to specify what document he was citing.

Mr. Trump's top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, told CNN on Sunday that the President was furious after he left the G7 summit early and learned that Mr. Trudeau had told a wrap-up news conference that Canada would not be "pushed around."

In an extraordinary assault on one of America's closest allies, Mr. Kudlow accused the Prime Minister of betraying the U.S. President and making him look weak on the eve of the historic summit with North Korea.

"He really kind of stabbed us in the back," Mr. Kudlow said and emphasized that the President "is not going to let a Canadian prime minister push him around. ... He is not going to permit any show of weakness on a trip to negotiate with North Korea. ... Kim must not see American weakness."

Mr. Trudeau, along with other G7 leaders, had endorsed the President's gamble to denuclearize North Korea.

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro was even harsher, telling Fox News that there "was a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad-faith diplomacy with Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door and that is what Justin Trudeau did."

In his Saturday tweet, Mr. Trump threatened to impose the same stiff tariffs on automobile exports from Canada and Europe - which would cripple the Canadian auto industry. Mr. Trump's advisers warned that the North American free-trade deal was also in jeopardy.

"That was one of the worst political miscalculations in Canadian history," Mr. Navarro said, while Mr. Kudlow added: "How many times has the President said 'if you hit me, I will hit you back.' "

A senior Canadian official said that Mr. Trump's outburst came out of left field, since Mr. Trudeau had already announced reciprocal tariffs last week.

Canada is uncertain whether the dispute could lead to a trade war and is particularly concerned if the U.S. imposes tariffs on Canadian autos, which the official said would be disastrous for both countries.

Ms. Freeland brushed off the White House tirades and discounted the threat that NAFTA is dead.

Mr. Trump said on Saturday that a deal was "close" on a sunset clause that would reopen NAFTA after five years, but Mr. Trudeau later refuted the President, saying Canada could never agree to that provision.

"A trade deal with a sunset clause is not a trade deal and therefore we will not accept a sunset clause of five, ten or whatever duration that is proposed by the President," Mr. Trudeau said.

The U.S.-Canada rift erupted after Mr. Trump left the G7 summit to head to his much-anticipated meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

At a news conference, Mr. Trudeau condemned the President's steel and aluminum actions as destructive and even illegal. Mr. Trump was on Air Force One en route to that meeting in Singapore on Saturday when he fired off two blistering tweets.

He ordered U.S. officials to pull out of a joint G7 communiqué that spoke about fair and balanced trade and told them to examine the imposition of tariffs on foreign automobiles coming into the U.S. market.

"PM Justin Trudeau of Canada acted so meek and mild during our @G7 meetings only to give a news conference after I left saying that, 'US Tariffs were kind of insulting' and he 'will not be pushed around.' " Mr. Trump tweeted.

The senior Canadian official said other G7 leaders have rallied behind Mr. Trudeau. Key U.S. politicians and Canadian political opponents are also backing the Prime Minister.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Mr. Trump's withdrawal from the G7 communiqué "via Twitter is of course sobering and a little depressing "and warned that Europe will forge ahead with reciprocal tariffs like Canada.

The office of French President Emmanuel Macron said: "International co-operation cannot be dictated by fits of anger and throwaway remarks."

U.S. Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein called Mr. Trump's outburst "a big mistake," while Republican Senator John McCain said the President's behaviour toward his G7 allies was wrong.

Appearing on Fox News on Sunday, former prime minister Stephen Harper urged Mr. Trump to stop picking trade fights with Canada and join forces to push China to open its markets.

"Us fighting over our trade relationship when the Chinese have a four-to-one imbalance with both of us is, in my judgment, just the wrong priority," he said.

NDP MP Charlie Angus called Mr. Trump a "small-minded man not fit for public office. Canada will not be pushed around by his circus-thug bluster." Incoming Ontario Conservative premier Doug Ford said he "stood shoulder to shoulder" with Mr. Trudeau as did Alberta's United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney.

Mr. Trump, who arrived late and left the G7 summit, in La Malbaie, Que., early, was unmoved by concerted efforts to persuade him to reverse his tariffs. He warned that Canadian and European reciprocal tariffs aimed at U.S. goods and services would be met with new levies.

"We are like the piggy bank that everyone is robbing and that ends," Mr. Trump told reporters on Saturday.

Before departing for Singapore, Mr. Trump again called for Russia to be reinstated in the G7.

Mr. Harper, who led the charge to oust Russia from the G7 in 2014 after its annexation of Crimea, said President Vladimir Putin should not be allowed back into an alliance of liberal democracies.

"This is a man who kills his political opponents. There is not a place around an allied table for a man like that," he said.

With reports from Associated Press

Associated Graphic

U.S. President Donald Trump boards Air Force One as he leaves the G7 summit to head to Singapore, where he will meet North Korea's Kim Jong-un on Tuesday.


Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, speaking in Quebec City after the G7 summit on Sunday, played down the U.S. President's Twitter outburst and fears of an intensified trade war.


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