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Will Trump turn things topsy-turvy at the G7?

With the American president, an excursion to traditionally welcoming territory turns into one fraught with friction

columns Updated: Jun 09, 2018 16:36 IST
All of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s efforts at mollifying the mercurial American President, earning him the sobriquet of Trump Whisperer, appear to have evaporated like the goodwill during his recent India trip(Reuters)

The resort of Charlevoix in the Francophone Canadian province of Quebec is popular, for among other things, the slopes it offers for skiing. This may still be summer and the snow is months away from collecting on the Laurentian mountains, but it will soon be the venue for an event where things can go downhill fast.

That, of course, is the summit of the Group of 7 or G7 nations, the world’s most advanced economies. The global meet is already G8 minus one, the disinvited country being Russia, excommunicated in 2014 from the elite grouping. But the event this year is likely to turn out to be more like G6 versus One, with American President Donald Trump facing off against the rest.

Trump will make his first appearance in Canada after he moved into the Oval Office and the visit comes days after Washington imposed billions of dollars worth of tariffs on its northern neighbour’s steel and aluminium exports, causing Ottawa to retaliate, making imports of American goods such as cars, canned beer, even peanut butter, that much dearer. In the distant past, say 2016, no one could have predicted these trade wars. All of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s efforts at mollifying the mercurial American President, earning him the sobriquet of Trump Whisperer, appear to have evaporated like the goodwill during his recent India trip.

In a rational world, Trump would be communing with compadres from Canada, Germany, France, Japan, the United Kingdom, with China being the outlier. But his actions since January 2017 have turned them into frenemies. Even the closest of relations the United States has maintained over decades haven’t survived unscathed in his first 500 days in office.

While Washington’s hyphenated addition of Indo to its Pacific Command will be welcomed by New Delhi, unfortunately with the Trump Administration there’s always the apprehension of when the other shoe will drop. When, and if, it does, it may pack a kick, as actions by Trump often do, particularly since India isn’t quite in step with the US on Iran. Will there be a sting in this tale? Getting into America’s friend category, at this time, seems paved with uncertainty. After all, Trump has lauded the leaders of Japan, Korea and China, and thereafter, socked them with tariffs, as with the Canadians and Europeans.

So, there is this curious situation in the topsy-turvy Trumpworld – an excursion to traditionally welcoming territory turns into one fraught with friction. As he flies from Canada to Singapore, he’ll do his summiting with a North Korean dictator, the leader of a brutal regime and nuclear missile-rattling foe, and that encounter is actually expected to turn out somewhat more pleasant than the challenge in Charlevoix.

Whenever Trump is done, he will be remembered for much he has done and undone, but among his legacies will be turning the word ally into a four-letter pejorative.

Anirudh Bhattacharyya is a Toronto-based commentator on American affairs.

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Jun 09, 2018 14:49 IST