Trump Shows No Signs Of Backing Down On Trade Positions As G-7 Summit Begins

Jun 8, 2018
Originally published on June 8, 2018 6:50 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Things were tense leading up to today's G-7 summit. On Twitter, President Trump fought with leaders of France and Canada over trade and tariffs. But when President Trump held face-to-face meetings with the two leaders in Canada today, they seemed to play down their differences, at least while cameras were in the room. NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe is with President Trump in Canada and joins us now. Hi, Ayesha.

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Hello, Ari.

SHAPIRO: So President Trump had some pretty tough words for Emmanuel Macron and Justin Trudeau before the summit. What happened when he actually met with them today?

RASCOE: President Trump held separate meetings with the French president and the Canadian prime minister. He met with the Canadian leader Justin Trudeau first. And Trudeau has been angry about these U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. The U.S. justified these tariffs on national security grounds, and Trudeau says Canada is not a security threat to the U.S. Trump's argument is that the steel and aluminum industries are essential and that we can't allow - or they cannot be allowed to struggle due to what he believes is unfair trade. But in the room for their meeting, Trump and Trudeau really made light of their friction, even joking about it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, Justin, it's been really great. And I appreciate, you know - Justin has agreed to cut all tariffs and all trade barriers between Canada and the United States. So I'm very happy about that.

PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU: So I'd say NAFTA's in good shape.

TRUMP: But we are actually working on it. We are actually working on it. But our relationship is very good.

RASCOE: And President Trump said over and over that their relationship was good and maybe even - perhaps better than it's ever been. His most recent tweets, though, probably put that assertion into question. Trump did later say that he and Trudeau had a very good talk about NAFTA.

SHAPIRO: Would love to know what they said after the reporters left. (Laughter) But what about the French president, Emmanuel Macron?

RASCOE: Well, they famously, like, got along really well, and they kind of had this bromance. But things went south when Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, and Macron had asked him not to. And then Trump followed that up with tariffs on the European Union. Macron, though, when they were in front of the cameras, tried to downplay that rift between the U.S. and the other members of the G-7. Here's what he had to say.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON: Sometimes we disagree. But we always speak and share - I think - common concerns and common values.

TRUMP: Right.

MACRON: And we share the willingness to deliver and get results together.

RASCOE: The French president was really putting forward a very optimistic outlook. He says he believes that the G-7 will be able to find common ground. Trump, for his part, was very complimentary of Macron. He did acknowledge that they don't always get along, saying that they do have little tests every once in a while when it comes to trade. But overall, all of these leaders were really trying to put a happy face on these recent divisions. But they didn't really lay out any concrete ways that they would be able to reach consensus.

SHAPIRO: Just in the last few seconds, President Trump is talking about making the G-7 the G-8 again, letting Russia back in - not very popular idea with the other allies there.

RASCOE: No, but President Trump did tell reporters that he thinks Russia should be back in. Now, when he was asked about this during these meetings from reporters, he said that the issue of Russia hadn't come out - hadn't come up in his discussions.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Ayesha Rascoe. Thanks so much.

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