Trump views G-7 summit as a distraction ahead of Singapore summit with Kim: Report

Aides say US President Donald Trump has been focused on his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and views the G-7 summit as a distraction from those preparations.
Aides say US President Donald Trump has been focused on his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and views the G-7 summit as a distraction from those preparations.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (WASHINGTON POST) - President Donald Trump is planning to fly to Canada on Friday (June 8). He is not exactly happy about it.

The president has vented privately about Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as their trade tensions have spilled into public view. He has mused about finding new ways to punish the northern neighbour in recent days, frustrated with the country's retaliatory trade moves.

And Trump has complained to aides about spending two days in Canada for a summit of world leaders, believing the trip is a distraction from his upcoming Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to three people familiar with Trump's views.

In particular, the president said on Tuesday to several advisers that he fears attending the Group of Seven summit in rural Charlevoix, Quebec, may not be a good use of his time because he is diametrically opposed on many key issues with his counterparts - and does not want to be lectured by them.

Additionally, Trump has griped periodically both about German Chancellor Angela Merkel - largely because they disagree on many issues and have had an uneasy rapport - as well as British Prime Minister Theresa May, whom he sees as too politically correct, advisers say.

Behind the scenes at the White House, there have been staff-level discussions for several days about whether Trump may pull the plug on the trip and send Vice-President Mike Pence in his stead, as he did for an April summit of Latin American leaders in Peru.

Then, Trump was preparing for missile strikes in Syria, and opted to remain behind in Washington. Trump was also enraged for several days before the cancelled trip to South America about the FBI raids on Michael Cohen, his personal lawyer.

 
 
 

But while Pence stands ready to fill in for Trump again this week, the president is convinced that his attendance at the G-7 summit is essential and is planning to travel on Friday morning to Quebec, according to three White House officials.

There also is concern inside the administration about what may happen once Trump arrives in Canada. Aides fear Trump may not sign onto the joint communique that is prepared by participating countries for release at the end of the summit.

Trump is a homebody president, preferring to sleep in the White House - or at one of his signature properties - than in hotels, so is generally reluctant to take long journeys.

Furthermore, he prefers visiting places where he is feted - such as on his trips last year to Riyadh, Beijing and Paris - over attending summits where the attending leaders are treated as equals.

Aides say Trump has been focused on his meeting with Kim and views the G-7 summit as a distraction from those preparations.

Trump's itinerary, which could still change, has him departing on Saturday directly from Quebec to Singapore, where he will meet Kim on June 12.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Thursday that Trump will attend the G-7 but will depart early.

“President Trump will depart the G-7 Summit at Charlevoix at 10.30am Saturday (10.30pm Saturday Singapore time), following the session on Women’s Empowerment,” she said. “The president will travel directly to Singapore from Canada in anticipation of his upcoming meeting with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un Tuesday.”

She said “G-7 Sherpa and deputy assistant to the president for International Economic Affairs Everett Eissenstat will represent the United States for the remaining G-7 sessions.”

Trump hopes that the historic gathering with Kim will produce an agreement from the North Koreans to denuclearise its arsenal.

In Quebec, Trump is expected to have tense discussions with the leaders of key Western allies over trade and other issues.

Some of them - most especially Trudeau, the summit's host - have publicly criticised Trump's new tariffs and characterised the United States as increasingly isolationist. The other six countries signed a sharp condemnation of the president's tariffs earlier this week.

Trump has scheduled bilateral meetings with Trudeau as well as with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Larry Kudlow, Trump's top economic adviser, previewed the trip to reporters on Wednesday and dismissed the notion that Trump is reluctant to go to Canada.

"The president wants to go on the trip," Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, told reporters.

"The president is at ease with all of these tough issues. He's proven himself to be a leader on the world stage and he's achieved great success, as I might add, in foreign policy. So I don't think there's any issue there at all."

Kudlow said any disagreements in Quebec between Trump and his counterparts would be "like a family quarrel", adding: "I believe it can be worked out."