Many foreign policy gestures are carried out for domestic consumption. So President Donald Trump’s chosen talking points at the G-7 summit in Canada this week will boast about the booming American economy.
That’s easy, and it’s nice for him. But this group of seven allied nations is already being skeptically called “G6 plus one” — the one being the United States and the six being Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom.
Trump, who is known less for confronting people successfully than blurting different things to different audiences, can expect to hear from allies irked by his controversial U.S. tariff plans.
“We’re talking everything through. There may be disputes,” Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow said in a briefing Wednesday. “I regard this as much like a family quarrel. I’m always an optimist and I feel it can be worked out.”
Bilateral discussions are planned with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and France’s president Emmanuel Macron, Kudlow said.
In a phone conversation last month with Trudeau, the American president reportedly had another of his unique gaffes, joking “Didn’t you guys burn down the White House?” in reference to the War of 1812.
Actually the British did that after the United States attacked York north of the border — then a British colony.
Trudeau was demanding to know how tariffs could be imposed on his country based on national security grounds, which the Trump administration cited as a rationale.
Lame or not, Trump’s statement seemed to have no practical effect. He called for separate U.S. trade deals with Canada and Mexico; the Canadian government has rejected that. NAFTA has yet to be voided.
The group used to be known as the G-8 but Russia was excluded after its Crimea incursion in 2014. This week, sanctions are likely to be upheld against President Vladimir Putin’s regime.
But Putin may see the group’s internal conflict as good for Russia, and Chinese leaders may see it as good for them.
“It is not our aim to divide anything or anybody in Europe,” Putin said in a television interview.
“On the contrary, we want to see a united and prosperous European Union because the European Union is our biggest trade and economic partner.”
Talk about solidarity by default.
When the meeting in Quebec ends, the big questions are likely to remain unanswered — what the U.S. strategy adds up to, how leanings may change, which tariffs and retaliations might remain in effect and what practical impact it all has.