President Donald Trump told U.S. officials not to endorse the Group of Seven’s final communique and accused Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of being dishonest, escalating a trade spat that had simmered throughout the two-day meeting.
Trump, who is on a plane to Singapore, unleashed two Twitter posts about two hours after Trudeau spoke, saying the U.S. would look at tariffs on automobiles that he said were “flooding the U.S. market.”
His comments threaten to undermine a grouping that has long acted as a defender of the global system of trade rules, and cause fresh friction with his northern neighbor as tensions percolate over efforts to redraw the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“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!,” Trump said on his Twitter account on Saturday evening.
The reference to cars is not new. Trump in May last month directed Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to initiate a national-security investigation into imports of cars, trucks and vehicle parts that could possibly lead to tariffs. Canada would be among the biggest losers from such a move as the second-largest supplier of foreign vehicles to the U.S.
The investigation into cars is seen by some as a way for the U.S. to gain leverage in the talks to revamp Nafta, including Mexico, which is the largest source of U.S. auto imports.
“It’s a brutal blow to a summit of significant success, both in substance and in presentation,” said John Kirton, director of the University of Toronto’s G-7 Research Group. The glow of the summit “has been destroyed, for now and probably for good.”
Trump’s comments on Saturday came shortly after Trudeau, who was hosting the G-7 meeting in Canada, had projected an image of cooperation. At his closing press conference as the summit’s chair, Trudeau announced all G-7 nations had worked hard to finalize a joint statement, which largely committed the nations to keep talking on trade.
Still, Trudeau also gave an account of his discussions with the U.S. president. Trudeau said he told Trump in candid conversations that U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs imposed this month were “insulting” and that Canada will move forward with counter-tariffs.
Trump said that retaliation is a “mistake,” according to Trudeau.
Canada is “polite, we’re reasonable but we also will not be pushed around,” Trudeau added.
Trudeau responded with a written statement, saying his 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.”
Trump left the summit early Saturday, before it officially ended, to head to Singapore to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June 12.
Copies of the communique stamped with “approuve,” or approved in French, were being circulated around the G-7 media center in Quebec City as Trump made his order on Twitter. The statement had been published online before Trump commented.
“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!,” Trump said in a second post.
Trump has complained repeatedly — including throughout the summit — about Canada’s protected dairy sector, citing 270 percent tariffs that he says stand in the way of American farmers accessing that market.
Canada’s system of quotas and tariffs for dairy, poultry and eggs, known as supply management, is something of a sacred cow — all major political parties support it, and, given the value of existing quotas, farm groups erupt when changes are discussed. Trump has called for the full dismantling of that system over 10 years.
Article originally appeared on Bloomberg.com