Canada and France have forged a united front on climate change, trade and a deal to deter Iran’s nuclear proliferation ahead of what promises to an acrimonious face-off with U.S. President Donald Trump at this week’s G7 summit.
After an intimate dinner with just their spouses at the prime minister’s Harrington Lake official residence in the Gatineau Hills, Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron promised Thursday they’d have each other’s back at the G7 table, outlining areas where they have clear differences with U.S. President Donald Trump.
They both kept up the “polite and respectful” approach to Trump even as their frustrations with the White House became clear.
They acknowledged trade, tariffs, climate change and how to approach Iran remain sticking points, and may frustrate efforts to come to a final joint communiqué. Macron seemed resigned to that prospect, noting Trump had not signed a recent G20 declaration on tackling global warming.
They tellingly talked up the Canada-Europe Union trade agreement as a model for global trade that supports sustainable development, independent dispute settlement, and is already boosting trade between the partners.
The comments by the two leaders at a Parliament Hill news conference before they each departed to Charlevoix for the summit laid bare the frustrations and even anger at Trump’s policy decisions.
There was even some question this week whether Trump would attend. According to a Washington Post report he was not happy about having to go, expecting to face a wall of opposition. “He’ll be there according to his tweets this morning,” Trudeau said, with a wry reference to the president’s social media feed.
Indeed, the president did confirm on Twitter Thursday that he was going: “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…But back home we still have the 13 Angry Democrats pushing the Witch Hunt!”
Reporters pressed the two leaders — who have until now adopted a cordial approach to relations with Trump — if it was time to change tack. None of their diplomatic entreaties have persuaded Trump to reverse course after he announced tariffs on European and Canadian steel and aluminum imports to the U.S.
“When you’re saying that President Trump doesn’t really care, perhaps that’s the case. But no one lives for ever,” Macron responded.
Trudeau said he has been “blunt” in private conversations with Trump and said the two-day G7 gathering is a chance for more “frank” discussions. He acknowledged the questions that swirl about the “dynamic” at the summit.
“It’ll be very similar to other G7 tables in which we highlight and discuss many things that were agreed on and have differences of opinion on other things,” Trudeau said.
There’s no question that on trade, on climate change, on some other issues there will be differences of perspective,” he said.
“I think this is a really important moment for us to come together and work on big issues,” he said.
Yet rarely have these summits seen a U.S. leader so at odds with his fellow leaders.
While this is Trump’s second G7 meeting, his actions on trade and climate change since last year’s summit in Italy have put him increasingly offside with other world leaders in the group.
Last June, U.S. formalized its withdrawal from the Paris climate change accord.
Trump’s recent moves to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, the European Union and Mexico have left American allies fuming and reacting with retaliatory tariffs themselves.
Macron said he’s faced criticism that he’s been too friendly with the U.S. president. But he defended that approach, saying, “there is a friendship between our two peoples. We have to maintain these ties.”
Still, the French president revealed that he’s tried to change Trump’s positions on climate change and trade. “But I’m not President Trump so I can’t make decisions for him. . . . I think we’ve done everything we can and put everything on the line,” he said.
And he made a public plea that Trump not try to frustrate efforts by France and others — even if he disagrees with the approach taken — to engage Iran on halting its nuclear weapons development program.
Trump withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action initially signed between Iran and a group that included China, Russia, France, Germany, the U.K. and the United States. He re-imposed sanctions against companies doing business with Iran.
Trudeau declared Canada would continue to support the Iran deal, saying Canada remains “disappointed” with the American decision to step away from it, calling Iran a threat to global stability.
Macron tellingly said that he would have Canada’s back too at the summit and said he would work with Trudeau to persuade Trump to “find a more normal path on trade topics.”
He said G7 countries shouldn’t be talking about waging a trade war when there are real wars to fight, pointing to challenges in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.
Both Macron and Trudeau went out of their way to stress the close ties between their own countries. Trudeau highlighted increasing trade between France and Canada in the wake of the Canada-EU trade deal. He announced that the two nations would collaborate on initiatives on artificial intelligence.
For his part, Macron talked about Canada’s military contributions to support French operations in Mali and their shared interests in the culture and arts.