Was President Trump’s refusal to sign the G7 communique a good idea?

At first, President Trump agreed to sign a communiqué or written statement that spells out the accomplishments of the G7 meeting between the seven biggest industrialized countries.

The communiqué shows cohesiveness—togetherness on issues—and a commitment to work toward them. It covers big topics like climate change, women’s rights and trade. Agreeing to sign the communiqué was a big victory for this fractured group that has seen the Paris Accord and Iran Nuclear Deal abandoned by the U.S.

But, then, the Prime Minister of Canada held a press conference and mentioned imposing retaliatory taxes on the U.S. Following this, President Trump un-agreed to sign the communiqué.

Was refusing to sign the communique a good idea, a power move that can bring results? Let’s take a look.

This was an effective Trump-style power move.

tough stance on trade agreements

Trump has taken a hard line on trade agreements and tariffs in order to negotiate new trade terms with nearly all major trading partners, including Canada.

He has said throughout his campaign and presidency that the U.S. is being treated unfairly in trade agreements, and that import taxes will help to protect American jobs and ignite the U.S. economy.

A note on tariffs: When our government imposes a tariff on imports from other countries (like it did on Canada), it costs you more money to buy whatever is being imported, or to buy whatever is made from the stuff being imported. It also raises money for the government because the tariff (or taxes) go to the government. And, it benefits domestic sources of the material by making those suppliers more economical.

willingness to act unilaterally

Clearly, President Trump has shown that he will not get pressured into unfavorable deals, even something as simple as signing the communique.

Not signing the communique was a bad decision.

collaboration is undermined

When our allies can’t rely on us to follow through–with something simple as signing an agreement or staying with an agreement we already made–we also can’t rely on them for support. What if we need help? Who will come to our aid?

French President Emmanuel Macron suggested that the six other countries of the G7 could exclude the US from the final statement. “The American President may not mind being isolated, but neither do we mind signing a 6 country agreement if need be,” he tweeted.

it seemed to be an emotional response rather than a strategic decision

The timing of Trump’s reaction and the way in which he reacted seemed emotional.

He resorted to name-calling over Twitter, saying the Canadian prime minister was weak, meek and dishonest. Trump also announced he’d sign the agreement, and then about-faced, announcing he’d NOT sign the agreement after a news conference during which Trudeau (Canadian prime minister) said that Canada would impose retaliatory taxes on the U.S.

Here’s one of Trump’s tweets:

widespread opposition to the tariffs

According to Forbes magazine “almost every economist” thinks that tariffs will destroy more jobs than they protect and will raise prices on consumer goods.

Check out this letter to President Trump from 1100 economists who oppose the tariffs.

An excerpt from the letter:

We are convinced that increased protective duties would be a mistake. They would operate, in general, to increase the prices which domestic consumers would have to pay. A higher level of protection would raise the cost of living and injure the great majority of our citizens.

Few people could hope to gain from such a change. Construction, transportation and public utility workers, professional people and those employed in banks, hotels, newspaper offices, in the wholesale and retail trades, and scores of other occupations would clearly lose, since they produce no products which could be protected by tariff barriers.

The vast majority of farmers, also, would lose through increased duties, and in a double fashion. First, as consumers they would have to pay still higher prices for the products, made of textiles, chemicals, iron, and steel, which they buy. Second, as producers, their ability to sell their products would be further restricted by barriers placed in the way of foreigners who wished to sell goods to us.

the constitutional problem: it does not grant the president the right to tax

The Constitution gives Congress the sole authority to tax imports. So, to go around this rule, and instead of getting congressional approval, President Trump said there were national security concerns to justify the tariffs, saying the military needs a domestic supply for its tanks and ships.

In doing so, President Trump dusted off a section of a 1960s trade law that allows the president to impose trade barriers when imports imperil national security.

bad timing/the Russian problem

Trump’s request to have Putin invited to return to the summit makes Trump’s soft approach to the Russian leader seem either tone-deaf to the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in our elections or–worse–very suspicious.

“Russia should be in this meeting,” Trump told reporters. “They should let Russia come back in, because we should have Russia at the negotiating table.”

“It may not be politically correct, but we have a world to run,” Trump said.

Russia was kicked out of the G8 after it invaded Ukraine and claimed Crimea, in an effort to check Russia’s aggressive behavior in elections, geographic expansion, poisonings, etc.

Trump’s comment weakens the G7 position.

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