The turbulent G7 in Quebec escalated into a chaotic Sunday as top economic lieutenants from the White House attacked Canada on TV talk shows, and Canada's foreign minister responded that Canadians were "insulted" and found the justification "absurd."

Larry Kudlow, President Donald Trump's chief economic adviser, said on CNN Sunday that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's comments at his closing press conference on June 9, after Trump had fled the premises, were a "betrayal."

Meanwhile, his National Trade Council director Peter Navarro said on Fox News that there was a "special place in hell" for Trudeau.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland fired back hours later from Quebec that the Trump administration's steel and aluminum tariffs were "illegal and unjustified."

"The national security pretext is absurd, and frankly insulting to Canadians, the closest and strongest ally the United States has had," said Freeland at the Château Frontenac in Quebec.

"We can't pose a security threat to the United States, and I know that Americans understand that. So that is where the insult lies."

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said in Quebec after the G7 summit on June 10, 2018 that Canada "can't pose a security threat to the United States, and I know that Americans understand that." Photo by Alex Tétreault

The latest salvos come on the heels of the eye-popping moment on Saturday night, when U.S. President Donald Trump, on board Air Force One, withdrew U.S. support for a joint G7 statement in a tweet.

The testy response followed Trudeau's closing remarks at the summit about the coming retaliation to U.S. tariffs on Canadian-made steel and aluminum imports.

"It would be with regret, but it would be with absolute certainty and firmness that we move forward with retaliatory measures on July 1, applying equivalent tariffs to the ones that the Americans have unjustly applied to us," Trudeau had said on Saturday. "I have made it very clear to the president that this is not something we relish doing, but it is something that we absolutely will do because Canadians — we're polite, we're reasonable, but we also will not be pushed around."

Trump announced in his tweets that the U.S. would withdraw its support from the joint G7 statement in response.

He hit send just minutes after the joint statement was released, sending attendees at the summit into a scramble to figure out where nations still stood. His Twitter bomb-chucking came two hours after Trudeau had said he had secured a deal with all leaders.

A senior Canadian official stressed on background to National Observer that Trump had been present for negotiations at the G7 summit, that a statement would not have been released without him on board, and that a tweet does not suddenly void all the work that went into the agreement.

Freeland spoke to reporters a couple hours after Trudeau had swept into the hotel, avoided questions from the media and quickly headed to bilateral meetings with the leaders of foreign nations.

Trudeau smiled for the cameras and then walked up a staircase and out of view, with a pack of reporters chasing him down a hallway to no avail. It was the first time the public had a chance to hear his reaction in person to Trump's summit-ending tweet bomb.

Trudeau was scheduled to meet with the presidents of Senegal, South Africa, Rwanda and Kenya, and the prime ministers of Bangladesh and Vietnam.

This followed the summit of the Group of Seven advanced industrialized nations of Canada, France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and Italy, with representation from the European Union.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau steps out of a car at the Château Frontenac in Quebec on the Sunday after he hosted the G7 summit. He avoided taking questions from media before holding bilateral meetings with foreign leaders. Photo by Alex Tétreault

Before Freeland appeared, and after Trudeau had appeared at the hotel, he tweeted that "the historic and important agreement we all reached at G7 Charlevoix will help make our economies stronger and people more prosperous, protect our democracies, safeguard our environment and protect women and girls’ rights around the world."

"That’s what matters," he added.

Kudlow had said on CNN the American delegation had been on board with the negotiation of the joint statement, known as a communique, throughout the summit. "We went through it, we agreed, we compromised on the communique, we joined the communique, in good faith," he said.

But then, according to Kudlow, Trudeau made statements about U.S. trade policy at his closing press conference that "really kind of stabbed us in the back."

On Sunday, Freeland was asked to respond to Kudlow and Navarro's barbs.

"Canada does not conduct its diplomacy though ad hominem attacks," she said. "We don't think that that is a useful or productive way to do business, and perhaps we refrain particularly from ad hominem attacks when it comes to our relationship with our allies."

Freeland said she wanted to underscore to Canadians that "our government is absolutely committed to standing up for Canadian workers and standing up for our industry."

Trudeau's Saturday press conference was dominated by trade including the renegotiation of NAFTA between Canada, U.S. and Mexico.

Trump said Saturday that he would insist on a sunset clause, or a permanent expiry date. Hours later, the prime minister rejected that, saying “we are opposed to any sunset clause of any length."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau heads up the stairs after arriving at the Château Frontenac in Quebec on June 10, 2018. He did not stop to take questions from media about the G7 summit that ended the night before with a disruptive tweet from U.S. President Donald Trump. Photo by Alex Tétreault

Trump has been particularly incensed by the issue of tariffs, just as his many of his G7 counterparts have been fuming at him for imposing tariffs on them on national security grounds.

Trump tweeted Saturday that Trudeau had "acted so meek and mild" during the summit, "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 and weak."

They have also been aghast at the U.S. leader’s repeated lobbying for Russia to re-join the G7. The country was suspended and then eventually banned after it seized Crimea in Ukraine.

“Some people like the idea of bringing Russia back in,” Trump said, not saying who specifically those people were. “I think it would be an asset to have Russia back in,” he said. “I think the G8 would be better...I think having Russia back in would be a positive thing.”

French President Emmanuel Macron also scolded Trump following the summit's conclusion, telling AFP that "international co-operation cannot be dictated by fits of anger and throwaway remarks." Macron also delivered a pointed rebuke toward Trump on Twitter.

"At the #G7Charlevoix, President Trump saw that he was facing a united front," Macron wrote in a tweet. "Finding itself isolated in a concert of nations runs contrary to American history."

It wasn't immediately clear whether Macron's post-summit comments made any impression on the U.S. delegation. However, following a spirited handshake with Trump, Macron was able to leave at least one impression from his thumb — on the president's hand.

Investigative journalism has never been more important. Will you help?

Subscribe

Comments

Stay the course with integrity Canada.

Today's must read