With friends like these… Trump’s points of friction with G7

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, pictured meeting US President Donald Trump at the White House in October 2017, called "laughable" Trump's reason for imposing tariffs

Quebec City (AFP) – When Donald Trump sits down with his fellow G7 leaders in Canada on Friday, he should in theory be in the company of the United States’ closest allies.

But since taking office a little over 500 days ago, he has had a series of spats with his peers. AFP looks at some of the points of friction between Trump and the other members of the exclusive club.

Italy’s Giuseppe Conte, who was only confirmed as prime minister this week, will be meeting his fellow leaders for the first time.  

– Justin Trudeau – 

Canada’s premier appeared to have struck up an unlikely friendship with Trump at their first meeting, saying he would never dream of “lecturing” his host even if the US president’s “America First” agenda is anathema to the arch liberal.

Pictures of Trump’s daughter Ivanka gazing intently at Trudeau seemed to underline the cosiness between the two neighbors. But Trump’s imposition of tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum imports on national security grounds infuriated Trudeau who branded them an insult to the memories of Canadian soldiers who had died alongside American brothers in arms. 

And Trump’s reported quip in a phone call with Trudeau last month about how Canadian soldiers burned down the White House in 1812 did not go down well either — not least as it was actually the work of the British.

– Theresa May –

Britain has long prided itself on its “special relationship” with its former colony and Prime Minister Theresa May was the first foreign leader to be received by Trump in the White House. 

But her decision to offer Trump a state visit soon backfired when opposition supporters threatened a mass mobilization. Calls for the invitation to be rescinded grew last November after Trump retweeted three inflammatory anti-Muslim videos posted by far-right group Britain First. 

When May condemned Trump for sharing the messages, he snapped back that she should keep her “focus on the destructive Radical Islamic Terrorism that is taking place within the United Kingdom.” 

The visit to Britain is now scheduled for July 13 — and a man whose own mother was Scottish can now expect a heated reception in London. 

– Angela Merkel – 

When Barack Obama bade farewell to the German chancellor on his last overseas visit as president, Merkel’s eyes are said to have welled with tears as she contemplated the change in the White House. 

Trump’s failure to shake Merkel’s hand when he first hosted her in Washington last spring underlined the cooling in relations between the Western world’s two most important leaders. 

In a speech in May, the German warned that Europe must learn “to take its fate in its own hands” now Trump was in power. Trump’s singling out of Germany’s auto sector for criticism in his gripes about the US trade deficit hardly helped matters either.

Although the pair insisted there was no bad blood between them when Merkel visited Washington in late April, the workmanlike nature of the one-day visit was in stark contrast to the fuss that Trump had made earlier in the week for France’s leader. 

– Emmanuel Macron –

As another outsider who upended the political order, France’s president appeared to have an instinctive understanding of the Trump phenomenon that more established leaders struggled to grasp. 

Indeed, their 29-second white knuckle handshake at their first meeting was an indicator that they had the measure of each other and Macron even came to be dubbed the “Trump Whisperer” after his successful hosting of the US president for the Bastille Day celebrations last July. 

But strains emerged during Macron’s visit to Washington in April when Trump brushed dandruff off his guest’s shoulder. A humiliated Macron then delivered a speech in Congress which repudiated much of Trump’s agenda, restating his commitment to both the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate agreement that Trump has turned his back on. 

– Shinzo Abe –

Trump’s relationship with the Japanese premier is arguably the warmest among the G7 leaders. The pair have enjoyed each other’s company on the golf course and issues such as the Iran nuclear deal which have soured relations with Europe have had relatively little impact on ties between Tokyo and Washington. 

However, Trump’s regular tirades over the balance of trade between Japan and the US has unsettled Tokyo and his apparent determination to engage with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un has also caused some alarm in Japan.