LA MALBAIE, Canada — Days after igniting a trade war, Donald Trump declared Saturday that he wants a world free of all tariffs and trade barriers.
Speaking at a news conference before leaving a G7 summit in Quebec, Trump insisted that the U.S. had long been victimized by its major allies and trading partners — flatly ignoring efforts by leaders of Europe’s major industrial powers, plus Canada and Japan, to change his mind.
But while the other leaders failed to persuade Trump that his view of global trade was overly simplistic and inaccurate, the U.S. president surprised them during a meeting on Friday by suggesting that they work toward ending all tariffs and barriers, in what would effectively be the mother-of-all free trade agreements.
Asked if he had indeed made that proposal, which was first reported by POLITICO, Trump said: “I did, oh I did. That’s the way it should be. No tariffs, no barriers, that’s the way it should be. And no subsidies, I even said.”
Trump also bluntly threatened to end trade with countries that refused to lower their tariffs on the U.S. “It’s going to stop or we’ll stop trading with them,” he declared.
The European leaders’ facts, figures and plaintive explanations on trade fell on deaf ears.
He also said the U.S. was so disadvantaged it had nothing to lose in a trade war. “They do so much more business with us, than we do with them, that we can’t lose,” Trump said, adding: “The numbers are so astronomically against them.”
The European leaders at the G7 summit — British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angel Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, European Council President Donald Tusk, and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker — had huddled on Friday before the trade session to develop a common line in dealing with the explosive American president.
But their facts, figures and plaintive explanations — including about Europeans’ love of Apple iPhones, or that there can be trade imbalances between countries in the EU’s single market that have zero tariffs between them — fell on deaf ears.
Trump came out swinging in his news conference, repeating his view that America has long been cheated by its friends. He also reiterated his call for Russia, which was ejected from the G8 after its invasion and annexation of Crimea, to be readmitted to the exclusive club of industrialized powers, saying his predecessor President Barack Obama was responsible for Crimea being lost.
And while his bellicosity and volatility has deeply strained relations between the U.S. and its historic allies, Trump insisted that he had terrific relationships with the G7 leaders, though before arriving at the summit he had unleashed a tweetstorm against some of them.
“It’s gonna change — 100 percent. And tariffs are going to come way down because people cannot continue to do that. We’re like the piggy bank that everybody is robbing.” — U.S. President Donald Trump
“The level of relationship is a 10,” Trump said. “We have a great relations,” he continued, talking about Merkel, Macron and Trudeau by first name. “Angela, and Emmanuel and Justin: I would say the relationship is a 10. And I don’t blame them. As I said, I blame our past leaders.”
But he said he was not going to budge in the trade fight.
“It’s gonna change,” Trump declared. “It’s gonna change. I mean it’s not a question of ‘I hope it changes.’ It’s gonna change — 100 percent. And tariffs are going to come way down because people cannot continue to do that. We’re like the piggy bank that everybody is robbing. And that ends.”
Asked if in letting Russia rejoin the group, Crimea should now be recognized as part of Russia, Trump blamed his predecessor in the White House. “You know you have to ask President Obama because he was the one who let Crimea get away; that was during his administration,” he said.
“Obama can say all he wants,” Trump added, “but he allowed Russia to take Crimea.”
At his news conference, Trump, engaging in a favorite habit, also lashed out at “fake” and “dishonest” news media.