For generations, the United States and Canada have enjoyed one of the world's most fruitful symbiotic relationships. The two nations share a border that stretches over 5,500 miles across the continent. Canada is America's second most significant trading partner, after China, and no country imports more goods from the United States than its neighbor to the north. The two nations even share three of the four major professional sports leagues. As Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said regarding the United States when he first visited President Trump's White House in February 2017, "No other neighbors in the entire world are a fundamentally linked as we are."
But after Trump laid waste to the G-7 summit that took place outside of Quebec City over the weekend, that fundamental relationship is in serious jeopardy. Responding to trade policy objections from Trudeau, Trump called the Canadian prime minister "indignant," "dishonest" and "weak" within a span of 72 hours while refusing to compromise on a trade agreement with America's closest allies. In the span of a few months, Trump has managed to turn one of the most logical and least controversial alliances in the world into an adversarial standoff.
The relationship between Trump and Trudeau wasn't always so thorny. Just as Trudeau did, the president touted the importance of the relationship during their initial meeting in February 2017, calling the prime minister a "great friend." Despite the pleasantries, Trump has long felt that Canada has taken advantage of the United States when it comes to trade. Two months after inviting Trudeau to the White House, the president tweeted that Canada is making "business for dairy farmers in Wisconsin and other border states very difficult."
"We will not stand for this," Trump added. "Watch!"
Fourteen months later, Trump made good on his promise to do something about what he deems as an unfair relationship with Canada in spectacular fashion, incinerating any sense of goodwill toward one of America’s closest allies. Tensions began to flare in March, when the White House announced it would be imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Canada, Mexico and the European Union were at the time given an exemption in hopes that a deal could be worked out, but that exemption was lifted earlier this month, and America's allies were none too pleased. The United States justified the tariffs by labeling Canada a national security threat. Trudeau called this "insulting," and it was later reported that when Trudeau raised the issue with Trump during a May 25th phone call, Trump said, "Didn't you guys burn down the White House?" a reference to the War of 1812, when the White House was burned down by the British.
Prior to the G-7 summit, Trump called Trudeau "indignant" while continuing to harp on the dairy trade and aregue that America is being taken advantage of by its allies.
Prime Minister Trudeau is being so indignant, bringing up the relationship that the U.S. and Canada had over the many years and all sorts of other things...but he doesn’t bring up the fact that they charge us up to 300% on dairy — hurting our Farmers, killing our Agriculture!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 7, 2018
Please tell Prime Minister Trudeau and President Macron that they are charging the U.S. massive tariffs and create non-monetary barriers. The EU trade surplus with the U.S. is $151 Billion, and Canada keeps our farmers and others out. Look forward to seeing them tomorrow.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 7, 2018
Despite the invective, Trump and Trudeau were reportedly getting along fine at the outset of the summit. Trudeau even gifted Trump a framed picture of a Canadian hotel owned by Trump's grandfather.
Trump met privately with Trudeau, where the prime minister attempted to outline the reasons he disagreed with the tariffs while once again raising his objection to America's stance that Canada presented a national security threat. Trump and his advisers remained fixated on dairy.
Canada charges the U.S. a 270% tariff on Dairy Products! They didn’t tell you that, did they? Not fair to our farmers!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 8, 2018
According to the Toronto Star, which spoke with a Canadian official familiar with the talks, Trudeau tried to get Trump to see the big picture: "The prime minister said, ‘Look, here’s the essence of our trading relationship. We sell you a lot of oil and energy and you sell us a lot of food and manufactured goods. It is a trillion dollar relationship. We could pick any one of those things and argue over the numbers. But shouldn’t we be talking about the relationship as a whole, which is an unmitigated positive for both of us?'"
Trump, Trudeau and the rest of the G-7 leaders then struggled to reach an agreement before ultimately coming to terms. Trump was still not pleased, calling a news conference to liken the United States to a "piggy bank" that the rest of the world is "robbing." Despite the president's belief that America is being treated unfairly, several experts have pointed out this isn't really the case. The G-7 tariff rates do not skew against the United States, and, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, America actually has a trade surplus – not a deficit – with Canada. Karl Rove agrees, as would anyone with access to a calculator.
Following Trump's departure, Trudeau tried to paint the summit as a success while noting that an agreement had been reached. He also reiterated that it was "kind of insulting" that the United States was imposing tariffs under the guise of national security, and reiterated Canada's intention to impose retaliatory tariffs. Trump then insulted Trudeau from Air Force One, tweeting that he would back the United States out the the agreement the world leaders had reached in Quebec.
Based on Justin’s false statements at his news conference, and the fact that Canada is charging massive Tariffs to our U.S. farmers, workers and companies, I have instructed our U.S. Reps not to endorse the Communique as we look at Tariffs on automobiles flooding the U.S. Market!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 9, 2018
PM Justin Trudeau of Canada acted so meek and mild during our @G7 meetings only to give a news conference after I left saying that, “US Tariffs were kind of insulting” and he “will not be pushed around.” Very dishonest & weak. Our Tariffs are in response to his of 270% on dairy!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 9, 2018
A day later, after landing in Singapore, Trump coined a new term for America's dealings with Canada and its other allies.
Fair Trade is now to be called Fool Trade if it is not Reciprocal. According to a Canada release, they make almost 100 Billion Dollars in Trade with U.S. (guess they were bragging and got caught!). Minimum is 17B. Tax Dairy from us at 270%. Then Justin acts hurt when called out!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 11, 2018
Though the president's wrath toward Trudeau for trying to paint the summit as a success and reiterating what he has already said about the tariffs may seem bizarre, it makes sense considering his upcoming meeting with Kim Jong-un. Trump's economic adviser Larry Kudlow said as much while speaking with CNN's Jake Tapper. "Now, POTUS is not gonna let a Canadian prime minister push him around, push him, POTUS, around, President Trump, on the eve of this – he is not going to permit any show of weakness on a trip to negotiate with North Korea," Kudlow said on State of the Union.
In other words, Trump has all but destroyed America's relationship with one of its closest allies and most significant trading partners so as not to appear weak in front of a dictator who had a private toilet flown to Singapore from North Korea to "deny determined sewer divers insights into [his] stools."
At least the Nobel Peace Prize is still in play.