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'Fair trade, fool trade', Trump vents anger on NATO allies, EU, Trudeau post-G7

11 June 2018 - 28   - 0

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump fired off a volley of tweets on Monday venting anger on NATO allies, the European Union and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the wake of a divisive G7 meeting over the weekend.

Having left the Group of Seven summit in Canada early, Trump’s announcement that he was backing out of the joint communique torpedoed what appeared to be a fragile consensus on the trade dispute between Washington and its top allies.

“Fair trade is now to be called fool trade if it is not reciprocal,” said Trump, who flew from Canada to Singapore for a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“Sorry, we cannot let our friends, or enemies, take advantage of us on trade anymore. We must put the American worker first!”

The communique, which had appeared to have papered over the cracks that surfaced so uncharacteristically at the G7, said the leaders of the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Italy, Germany and Japan were agreed on the need for “free, fair, and mutually beneficial trade” and the importance of fighting protectionism.

“We strive to reduce tariff barriers, non-tariff barriers and subsidies,” the statement said, which came despite Washington appearing intent on taking more punitive steps on trade.

It is unclear if Trump’s focus on getting tough with trade partners, and solving the North Korean nuclear issue will have some influence on voters in the mid-term congressionsal elections in November.

While foreign policy issues like North Korea don’t usually have much bearing on the polls, Trump’s extraordinary outburst on Monday against NATO allies, the European Union and Canada appeared aimed at striking chord with voters who support his “America First” agenda.

“Not fair to the people of America! $800 billion trade deficit,” he said. “Why should I, as president of the United State, allow countries to continue to make massive trade surpluses, as they have for decades, while our farmers, workers & taxpayers have such a big and unfair price to pay?”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on why Trump had focused his tweets on Canada and the EU over trade disputes and on NATO partners over defense costs and not on his talks with Kim set for Tuesday.

Asked whether allies had any reason to worry about Trump’s commitment to any deal he reaches with North Korea following his abrupt withdrawal from the G7 communique, one U.S. official appeared to brush aside the notion, saying other countries have got used to how the president operates internationally.

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