By Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press
QUEBEC — On the eve of what’s expected to be a combative Canadian debut at the G7 summit, President Donald Trump enjoyed a glimmer of praise Thursday for his global peacemaking efforts to rid North Korea of nuclear weapons.
The qualified kudos came from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, offering the U.S. leader a brief respite from criticism over the punishing steel and aluminum tariffs he has imposed on his G7 partners.
The tariffs, as well as broader disagreements on trade, climate change and the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement, are setting the stage for some tense face-to-face meetings here once Trump arrives Friday at the Quebec summit.
In Ottawa, Macron and Trudeau offered an olive branch of sorts by offering Trump a modest measure of support in his historic meeting in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
But they also made it clear that won’t keep them from pushing Trump to end the tariffs, which they brand as illegal and bad for everyone’s economy. They also reaffirmed their commitment to the world’s rules-based order — something Trump has little time for.
At the White House, Abe offered Trump praise for his denuclearization efforts in the Korean Peninsula, telling him it was an outstanding achievement that past U.S. presidents have been unable to accomplish.
In fact, the simmering U.S. trade dispute with its G7 partners — Japan included — didn’t even warrant a mention during Abe’s joint news conference with Trump, allowing the president to project an aura of international statesmanship sure to be tested in Quebec’s scenic Charlevoix region.
In March, Trump first announced the imposition of tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum, but he gave Canada, Mexico and the European Union a waiver. The steel tariffs also affect the other G7 member, Japan, which was never granted a waiver.
Macron came to Ottawa ahead of the G7 summit in part to talk strategy with Trudeau on how to deal with a mercurial president who likes to be liked. They found a way to praise him on North Korea, even if it was tempered by other complaints.
Trudeau offered the G7’s support, saying it’s important “to demonstrate the solidarity of the world’s leading industrialized economies behind the president’s efforts on the Korean Peninsula.”
Macron said: “We’ll all be behind him to support this essential initial initiative in the fight for global denuclearization.”
But the French leader quickly added that Trump can’t expect credibility on that file while he undoes all the good work done to date on pushing Iran to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
“What credibility can a negotiation on the North Korean nuclear program have if we undo the negotiations of three years ago on the Iranian nuclear program?” he asked.
“Because we want President Trump to be strong and successful in his negotiation with North Korea, we want the international community to be credible on the Iranian nuclear program.”
Most recently, Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear agreement, following his earlier decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. The nuclear agreement included Germany and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, which includes France and Britain — all G7 members.
At one point, Macron waxed on about the apparent negative effect of U.S. hegemony, and suggested nothing short of sheer human mortality and the sweep of history would undo Trump’s decision to dump the climate accord that was struck in the French capital almost three years ago.
“None of us is eternal, so therefore our countries, the commitments we have made, transcend us,” he said. “There is a continuity of the state that is at the heart of international law, with the principles of this international law.”
Trump is no fan of the world’s multilateral institutions, and that has him on a collision course with his fellow G7 leaders, creating the so-called G6-plus-one dynamic. Trudeau and Macron expressed strong support for those institutions Thursday.
They issued a joint declaration that affirmed the importance of the world’s multilateral institutions that included a commitment “to shared values like liberty, democracy, respect for human rights, and the rule of law.”
They also renewed their commitment to the fight against climate change and to promote democratic values, free and open trade, and gender equality.
Macron said he and Trudeau discussed their “common vision of the world,” adding that “this period is marked by great challenges” — part of their pre-G7 united front, marked by the French president tweeting Wednesday of his country’s “convergence” with Canada.
Trudeau also spoke by phone Thursday with Giuseppe Conte, Italy’s new prime minister, and British Prime Minister Theresa May.
On Wednesday, Trump’s top economic adviser dismissed the hand-wringing over tariffs as little more than a “family quarrel.” But the president’s Twitter feed Thursday suggested he’ll arrive in Quebec with his elbows up.
“Getting ready to go to the G-7 in Canada to fight for our country on Trade (we have the worst trade deals ever made),” he tweeted.
— With files from Lina Dib in Ottawa