(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump’s disavowal of a joint statement after the Group of Seven meeting was made to avoid looking weak going into the North Korea summit after “sophomoric” comments by Canada’s Justin Trudeau, a top aide said.
Trudeau “really kind of stabbed us in the back,” White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, calling on the Canadian to apologize. Trudeau’s office, in turn, said what the Canadian leader said on Saturday was nothing new.
The U.S. helped negotiate the joint communique and was “very close to making a deal with Canada” on the North American Free Trade Agreement, Kudlow said. But the Canadian prime minister’s post-conference criticism Saturday was “a betrayal” that required a response from Trump, to avoid showing weakness on the eve of talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, he added.
“He is not going to permit any show of weakness on the trip to negotiate with North Korea, nor should he,” Kudlow said of Trump. “Kim must not see American weakness.”
The Canadian dollar fell as much as 0.6 percent against the greenback in early Asian trading on Monday as dealers responded to the G7 meeting and its aftermath. The Australian and New Zealand dollars also declined amid risk-averse price action.
Kudlow said the U.S. participated in G7 talks and bilateral talks on Nafta in good faith and that Trump had been “charming.” But the president broadsided his allies after leaving the meeting by disavowing a joint statement the U.S. had agreed to, criticizing Trudeau and vowing tariffs on automobiles.
“I have instructed our U.S. Reps not to endorse the Communique as we look at Tariffs on automobiles flooding the U.S. Market!,” Trump tweeted Saturday evening while en route to Singapore aboard Air Force One. “Very dishonest & weak,” he said of Trudeau.
At his closing press conference, Trudeau called U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs “insulting” and pledged to proceed with previously announced retaliatory tariffs.
Trudeau’s office responded to Trump’s tweets with a written statement, saying the prime minister’s comments in public and in private with Trump were “nothing he hasn’t said before” and that he was “focused on everything we accomplished here at the G-7 summit.”
Ad Hominem Attacks
After comments Sunday by Kudlow and White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, Canada’s foreign affairs minister said Ottawa “does not conduct its diplomacy through ad hominem attacks” and was justified in responding to Trump’s tariffs.
“In a way, that feeling of being insulted is most acute when these illegal and unjustified actions come from a country which is an extremely close partner of ours -- our friend, our neighbor, our ally,” Chrystia Freeland told reporters Sunday in Quebec City.
Kudlow said Trudeau had engaged in a “a sophomoric political stunt for domestic consumption” and should apologize.
“In the name of the Western allies, he ought to come out today and wish President Trump well in the negotiations, instead of taking potshots at us,” Kudlow said. Trump is due to meet with North Korea’s Kim on Tuesday.
Kudlow, 70, at one point referred to Canada’s leader as “Pierre Trudeau,” confusing the 46-year-old prime minister with his late father, who served in the same capacity for more than 15 years between 1968 and 1984 and died in 2000.
Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Navarro doubled down on Kudlow’s rhetoric and said Trudeau’s post-conference comments were in bad faith.
“There’s a special place in Hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door,” Navarro said.
The public sniping at a sitting leader of state by White House aides shocked some veteran diplomats.
“Just when we thought it couldn’t get worse,” Nicholas Burns, U.S. ambassador to NATO in the George W. Bush administration, said on Twitter after Kudlow’s appearance on CNN. “Not unusual to argue with allies. Keep it behind closed doors. Save public charges of treachery for our adversaries. Most inept and shameless Administration since Harding.”
Burns, now a professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, termed Navarro’s comments “over the top embarrassing. Small minded. Ludicrous.”
In a separate interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Kudlow said the Trump had a “very successful, calm, friendly, respectful bilateral” with Trudeau and that the U.S. won’t withdraw from Nafta. The negotiations will either be bilateral or trilateral with Mexico, he said.
But Kudlow said he doesn’t know whether there will be a deal and that Trump had no alternative but to respond the way he did to Trudeau’s “very unfortunate” statements. “Who picked the fight? I’m arguing Trudeau picked the fight,” he said.
The fight isn’t just with Trudeau and Canada but with the best allies of the U.S., Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California said on CNN.
“Not to sign a statement of solidarity, which stands for everything that we stand for, is a big mistake,” Feinstein said. “I understand the president was upset. The president could have said that. But to walk away from our allies in this way, I think, is a mistake.”
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.