President Donald Trump plans to depart from this weekend’s Group of 7 summit in Canada several hours early, the White House announced Thursday, punctuating an explosion of acrimony between Trump and his foreign counterparts on the eve of the talks.
The White House said Trump would depart mid-morning on Saturday, skipping sessions on climate change and the environment. An aide will take his place, the White House said.
The announcement came as Trump engaged in a bitter back-and-forth with French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over Twitter, both of whom he’ll meet face-to-face on Friday.
Trump is expecting a knock-down, drag-out fight with top US allies over trade during his time at the conference, held in remote Quebec. It’s a battle he believes he can win, but which he’s unenthusiastic about waging in person, people familiar with his thinking say.
Even as late as Thursday afternoon, Trump was questioning why he would attend a G7 meeting where he’s outnumbered on key issues like trade and climate change. As a series of combative tweets from Macron began emerging late in the day, Trump again raised the prospect of scrubbing all or part of his visit to Canada, asking advisers what the point of attending the summit would be, according to a person familiar with the conversations.
He was told that canceling the visit entirely would appear like he’s shrinking from a fight he proudly began. And with that in his head, Trump told his advisers he’ll enter the talks swinging.
And swing he did on Twitter, responding to Macron’s assertion that G7 nations would band together without the US.
“Please tell Prime Minister Trudeau and President Macron that they are charging the U.S. massive tariffs and create non-monetary barriers. The EU trade surplus with the U.S. is $151 Billion, and Canada keeps our farmers and others out. Look forward to seeing them tomorrow,” Trump tweeted.
Later, Trump followed up with a tweet aimed at Trudeau and referred to the Canadian prime minister as “indignant.”
He tweeted again later Thursday night, complaining about the trade practices of the European Union and Canada.
It was an astonishing broadside against two US allies, but one that was perhaps expected as Trump enters the contentious talks.
The President’s focus over the past weeks has been his June 12 summit with North Korean despot Kim Jong Un in Singapore and not the G7 meetings held with top US allies in a remote part of Quebec, people familiar with the preparations say. Trump has even questioned whether his presence is absolutely required in Canada.
It is, top advisers have responded, warning an absence at the premier meeting of top world leaders would amount to a retreat amid fierce clashes over economic and other issues. Trump has vented back that the meetings are unlikely to produce anything worthwhile, and that the trek to rural Quebec is a waste of time.
US allies have wondered and openly discussed how long Trump will remain at the G7 talks. Even as late as Thursday, some foreign officials – based on conversations they have been having – were still considering it a real possibility Trump could leave the summit early.
Aides have juggled how to fulfill the requirements of the G7 while at the same time preparing Trump for the high-stakes Singapore talks a few days later. Even before Thursday’s announcement, the President was already planning to skip a working lunch with world leaders on Saturday focused on healthier oceans, people familiar with the matter said. Diplomats are likely to view the early departure as a way to avoid further animosity.
Trump alluded to the packed agenda in remarks from the Oval Office on Thursday.
“It will be a pretty crowded number of days. But very exciting and I think a lot of good results can come about,” Trump said. He was optimistic about the Canada talks, saying he expected “some pretty good discussions” at the G7.
The schedule of meetings and photo-ops on the G7 agenda begins Friday with a family photo in the mid-afternoon. All the events are being held at a golf resort in rustic Charlevoix. The mood, according to nearly everyone involved, will be unpleasant.
Leaders are assembling at a fractured moment for US alliances after Trump slapped tariffs on steel and aluminum. His decisions to withdraw from