Abe’s spokesperson, Noria Maruyama, said half the discussion around the table was about North Korea, with Trump having the unanimous support of his allies. The rest of the talk centred on Russia, which he said prompted a lot of “vivid” and “frank” discussion.
En route to the summit, Trump had shocked everyone in calling for Russia to be readmitted to the G7. The others said no. Rookie Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte had first supported Trump, but later dialled back his enthusiasm.
After dinner Friday night, the leaders moved outdoors to watch a cultural entertainment show, complete with a bonfire and Cirque de Soleil performers.
Maruyama said the show put everyone in a “friendly” mood and, when it was all over, the leaders continued to talk.
Trudeau and Trump had been talking separately, then urged everyone to come into a leader’s lounge off their meeting room in the sprawling Manoir Richelieu so the leaders could try to reach agreement on a final statement.
The Americans, led by Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow, said they couldn’t agree to language that supported the global rules-based trading system because they were trying to reform the system, said a source, but agreed to a nod to the World Trade Organization. Trudeau argued that the two were linked.
The leaders went back and forth for up to an hour. The Americans could agree to language on the WTO, and “a rules-based global system” not “the rules-based global system,” said the source. All agreed to “commit to modernize the WTO to make it more fair as soon as possible.”
After that, the task of fine-tuning the statement was handed off to their “sherpas” or summit aides, and senior officials, who met until 2:30 in the morning.
But by the next morning, before the G7 leaders were to meet with a gender advisory council for breakfast, it appeared the consensus had unravelled.
And other sticking points remained, said the official. The Americans didn’t want to agree to a declaration on climate change that referenced the Paris Accord, nor did they want to sign on an oceans charter, which contained targets on plastics, with similar language.
Word came Trump was unexpectedly going to hold his own closing press conference before leaving. So there was a scramble to get the leaders together again to haggle over those issues.
Photos of the group of G7 leaders and their top officials, including one posted by Merkel’s office that went viral, show an intense debate that was going on over the final communiqué’s language on trade and oceans, with Trump seated in the middle.
No one expected Trump would sign on the climate change piece, but they’d hoped the U.S. would agree to take joint action to tackle plastic pollution in the world’s oceans.
Trump held a news conference in which he promptly appeared to reject even the ideas on trade embodied in the communiqué he had agreed to, threatening to cut trade ties with any country who didn’t agree to a “zero tariffs” approach, telling reporters “the gig is up.”
Trump left, skipping the climate change and oceans sessions, but Trudeau took the stage Saturday evening to proclaim all G7 leaders had reached a joint statement, calling the summit a success and outlining his own talks with Trump.
It drew Trump’s wrath. Referencing Trudeau’s account of pushing back at the U.S., he tweeted Trudeau made “false statements.” He scorned Trudeau as appearing “meek and mild” in their meetings, but was “dishonest and very weak.”
Canadian officials insist, and Trudeau’s spokesperson tweeted, that Trudeau said nothing he hadn’t already said in public or in private to Trump.
On Sunday, Trudeau wouldn’t directly respond to Trump’s comments, only tweeting that the meaningful work the G7 had done was all that matters.
One called Trump’s actions rude, another said the U.S. president had personally insulted the prime minister and he would not engage on that level, adding that Trudeau was mindful of Trump’s concern — stated through Kudlow — that Trump was angry he’d been made to look weak in advance of the North Korea summit.
In the end, a summit meant to patch trade rifts ended with a deeper acrimony and questions about the Canada-U.S. relationship and how it could recover in the crucial weeks ahead.