Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron attend a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, June 7, 2018. (Patrick Doyle/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Trudeau and Macron brace for tough talks with Trump

They are two leaders who have been known for their attempts to win over U.S. President Donald Trump with friendly talk and had a reputation of having the president’s ear.

But the era of Trump whispering might be over for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron as they brace for a tough meeting with the U.S. president at the G7 leaders’ summit in Charlevoix, Quebec, on Friday and Saturday.

The two leaders met in Ottawa Thursday to discuss how to deal with Trump whose disdain for multilateral institutions and the dogged pursuit of “winner-takes-all” and “America-first” policy on everything from trade to climate change and global security have strained relations with America’s closest allies.

Trump will hold separate bilateral meetings with Trudeau and Macron and he will also face questions on the recently imposed U.S. tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum from Canada, Mexico and the European Union at a broader meeting of G7 leaders on the state of the world’s economy that kicks off the summit on Friday.

“Since the beginning I have done what Canadians have expected of their prime minister I have been polite and respectful but I’ve always been very firm on Canada’s interest and in terms of our values,” Trudeau said during a joint press conference with Macron in Ottawa. “This approach will continue.”

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks at a press conference with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, June 7, 2018. (Patrick Doyle/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Macron, who admitted that he has faced criticism for appearing too friendly with Trump, said he had the same approach.

“There is a friendship between our two peoples, we have to maintain those ties,” Macron said.  “In this environment we have to remain polite and productive, we have to try to convince the United States to remain in the community of nations – of course this is our historical ally – without ever conceding anything on our fundamental values.”

Confronting Trump on tariffs

On the issue of U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum, which threatens to overshadow the summit’s carefully prepared agenda, Trudeau said Canada and its European allies will continue to try to convince Trump that his policies will first of all hurt American producers and workers.

“American jobs are on the line because of his actions and because of his administration,” Trudeau said. “When we can underscore this, and we see that there’s a lot of pressure within the U.S., perhaps he will revise his position.”

A trade war is not in anyone’s interest, added Macron.

“It will start to hurt American workers, the cost of raw materials will rise and industry will become less competitive,” he said.

Both leaders denounced the U.S. tariffs as illegal under international law and said the national security justification given by the Trump administration was ridiculous and insulting given the close ties between the United States and its NATO allies Canada and France.

Trump will attend the summit, says Trudeau

From L-R, European Council President Donald Tusk, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe walk after a family photo during the G7 Summit in Taormina, Sicily, Italy, May 26, 2017. (Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS)

Trudeau also dismissed speculation that Trump, who is preparing for a crucial meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un in Singapore, might not even show up for the summit.

“We know that President Trump likes to be unpredictable but everything suggests that he will be there for the G7 summit, including his tweets this morning,” Trudeau said, responding to a question in French.

Trump tweeted Thursday morning that he is “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), then off to Singapore to meet with North Korea & the Nuclear Problem.”

Keeping focus on Canadian priorities

As the host of the summit, Trudeau has the work cut out for him as he attempts to deal with an escalating trade war between the U.S. and its closest trading partners and keeping the focus of the summit on some of the Canadian priorities.

In a statement released by the Prime Minister’s office on Thursday, Trudeau said the best path forward is to focus on the following priorities:

  • Helping workers adapt to the changing world of work;
  • Delivering strong growth by investing in people;
  • Building strong communities and economies;
  • Ensuring that everyone pays their fair share by tackling international tax avoidance and evasion;
  • Better measuring growth that works for everyone

“In Charlevoix, we will focus on fighting inequality and creating growth that works for everyone,” Trudeau said in a statement. “If we meet these challenges head-on, I am confident we can strengthen the middle class and offer real help to people working hard to join it.”

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