US President Donald Trump has really bad manners. He rocked up to the G7 meeting at La Malbaie in Quebec late and left early. Granted he’s the sort of house guest you really don’t want hanging around for too long, the type who’d probably pee in the sink while the pots and pans are still soaking.
On top of that he had one of his henchmen go on Fox News and threaten the host – Canadian leader Justin Trudeau! White House trade adviser Peter Navarro promised a “special place in hell” for any world leader that double crosses the US President.
Uncouth manners aside, Trump’s truculent behaviour over the weekend exposes several other more alarming short-comings from the so-called leader of the free world and his administration.
He is clearly out of his comfort zone when it comes to being surrounded by heavyweight female intellectuals and they don’t come much more serious than German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, easily two of the world’s most influential women.
Table planners at the gender-focused breakfast session sandwiched him in-between Lagarde, who was next to Merkel, and Lt. Gen. Christine Whitecross, the Canadian head of the NATO college in Rome. The meeting was billed by Canadian officials as a chance for leaders to draft “concrete actions for the G7 to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment”.
Turning up late for this important session speaks volumes about his regard for women and his fear of clever, articulate and sharp negotiators like the ones strategically placed at his table. It’s quite clear he’s rather have knockabout banter with his fawning locker roommates which is fine if you’re a reality TV host on The Apprentice and not the US President.
Similarly, like a man burdened by his own self importance, he swept out of the G7 before other pressing global issues like climate change could begin. Again, when it comes to environmental matters it means sitting down and listening to experts who are far more clever and qualified to talk about the state of the planet than Trump or his third rate advisers who are all in denial about the catastrophic impact climate change is having on the world’s oceans.
At last year’s Italian G7 summit he refused to sign any agreement with regards climate controls and a week later withdrew from the Paris climate change accord.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had just welcomed everyone to the session when Isabelle Hudon, Canada’s ambassador to France, was launching in to her opening remarks as Trump and his entourage stomped into the room. Of course everyone was far too polite to say anything although the ice cold, unblinking stares from Merkel and Lagarde were withering enough.
Trudeau had invited the Gender Equality Advisory Council — co-chaired by Hudon and Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — to advise him on recommendations to make at Saturday’s meeting with other world leaders. One suggestion included funding for “developing and conflict-affected countries” to improve access to a minimum of 12 years of free, safe and quality “gender-responsive education.”
It was all too much for Trump who swept out again by mid-morning to embark on his journey to Singapore for his much talked about meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on June 12. This is more Trump’s style sitting down with a brute of a man for a one-to-one in which the rogue state will be pressured to consign its nuclear programme to the garbage bin.
Having shown his contempt for any gender-based issues or environmental matters Trump still had one more parting shot and this, probably more than anything else, illustrated his ignorance of history and failing to heed from previous lessons learned. Holding a press conference he warned Canada and other American trading partners that they must eliminate trade barriers if they to do business with the United States.
Talking tough is what Trump does. He likes to posture and gesture like some pumped up testosterone-fuelled, greased up body-builder in a vanity competition. While his empty rhetoric might sound pleasing to his red-neck constituents the reality is far from making America great again, Trump could well plunge the US into an economic abyss taking the rest of the world with it.
More than a thousand economists have already written to Trump warning him that his “economic protectionism” threatens to repeat of the 1930s Great Depression. Led by 14 Nobel prize winners, 1,140 economists sent a letter last Thursday urging restraint.
He has put the US on a collision course with the European Union by imposing tariffs on steel and aluminium imports while granting a temporary reprieve to the EU, Australia and other countries. The financial experts reminded the US President what happened the last time trade wars were unleashed on the world.
“In 1930, 1,028 economists urged Congress to reject the protectionist Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act,” they wrote saying it was one of the triggers for the Great Depression.
“Today, Americans face a host of new protectionist activity, including threats to withdraw from trade agreements, misguided calls for new tariffs in response to trade imbalances, and the imposition of tariffs on washing machines, solar components, and even steel and aluminum used by US manufacturers.
“Congress did not take economists’ advice in 1930, and Americans across the country paid the price. The undersigned economists and teachers of economics strongly urge you not to repeat that mistake. Much has changed since 1930 – for example, trade is now significantly more important to our economy – but the fundamental economic principles as explained at the time have not.”
The Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, formally known as the US Tariff Act of 1930, raised import duties to protect American businesses and farmers, adding considerable strain to the international economic climate of the Great Depression. It contributed to the early loss of confidence on Wall Street and heralded in US isolationism by prompting trade retaliation from foreign governments, and many overseas banks began to fail. American imports from and exports to Europe fell by some two-thirds between 1929 and 1932, while overall global trade declined by similar levels in the four years that the legislation was in effect.
It’s also worth noting that the Great Depression is blamed by some as contributing to the rise of political extremism and the far right which enabled leaders like Adolf Hitler to emerge, gain political clout and seize power.
While Trump’s tariffs are not in effect yet, and so far they are officially limited to steel and aluminum, it is obvious stock traders will act on their instincts when looking into the future. Meanwhile Trump continues his mantra that “trade wars are good.”
Clearly upset that Trudeau briefed reporters that Canada would stand firm when it came to new US tariffs and “not be pushed around, Trump took to Twitter to chide him for acting “meek and mild.” While his trade adviser Peter Navarro warned: “There’s a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad-faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door. And that’s what bad faith Justin Trudeau did with that stunt press conference,” he told Fox News.
Watching Trump and his team perform is like watching someone marching for a gas leak with a lighted match – it might be mildly amusing but the consequences are dire … and not just for Team Trump but for all of us.
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