WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser said Sunday that Trump had pulled out of a joint statement with allies at the Group of 7 meeting over the weekend because a “betrayal” by the Canadian prime minister had threatened to make Trump appear weak before his summit meeting Tuesday with North Korea’s leader.
The adviser, Larry Kudlow, said that Trump had no choice but to take the action after the prime minister, Justin Trudeau, said in a news conference that Canada would not be bullied by the United States on trade.
Trump “is not going to let a Canadian prime minister push him around,” Kudlow said, adding, “He is not going to permit any show of weakness on a trip to negotiate with North Korea.”
Trudeau made his remarks, which were largely measured in tone, after the president had agreed to sign the joint statement and had left for his historic meeting with Kim Jong Un in Singapore. Negotiators had struggled to write a compromise communiqué addressing trade and other issues that the seven nations could agree on, but issued one Saturday believing that there would be consensus.
In his news conference, the prime minister made a vow to protect his country’s interests that was not unlike the promises Trump himself has made for the United States. But Kudlow said that the timing of the comments meant that Trudeau had “stabbed us in the back.”
“We joined the communiqué in good faith,” Kudlow said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “You just don’t behave that way, OK? It’s a betrayal.”
He added that Trump “had every right — every right — to push back on this amateurish Trudeau scheme.”
Peter Navarro, the president’s top trade adviser, echoed Kudlow’s criticism of Trudeau, though in even harsher terms.
“There’s a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad-faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door,” Navarro said on “Fox News Sunday.”
On Sunday, Democrats expressed alarm at Trump’s decision to back away from the joint G-7 statement.
“This wasn’t just with Trudeau. This is with our best allies,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said on CNN. “Not to sign a statement of solidarity, which stands for everything that we stand for, is a big mistake.”
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., offered a message to foreign nations in a tweet.
“To our allies: bipartisan majorities of Americans remain pro-free trade, pro-globalization & supportive of alliances based on 70 years of shared values,” he wrote Saturday. “Americans stand with you, even if our president doesn’t.”
On Saturday, Trudeau said Canada would retaliate against U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum products. The president apparently heard Trudeau’s comments while flying on Air Force One and quickly lashed out on Twitter.
“Based on Justin’s false statements at his news conference, and the fact that Canada is charging massive Tariffs to our U.S. farmers, workers and companies, I have instructed our U.S. Reps not to endorse the Communique as we look at Tariffs on automobiles flooding the U.S. Market!” Trump wrote.
He added that Trudeau was “very dishonest and weak” and “acted so meek and mild.”
Trump’s response amounted to a declaration of political war on one of the country’s closest allies, and further isolated the United States after months of protectionist threats that have kept Trudeau on edge.
In a tweet Sunday, Trudeau chose to focus on what he said was the substance of the summit meeting.
“The historic and important agreement we all reached at #G7Charlevoix will help make our economies stronger & people more prosperous, protect our democracies, safeguard our environment and protect women & girls’ rights around the world,” he wrote. “That’s what matters.”
The Canadian foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, said Sunday that “Canada does not believe that ad hominem attacks are a particularly appropriate or useful way to conduct our relations with other countries.”
She added, “We particularly refrain from ad hominem attacks when it comes to our allies.”
Canada was not the only target at the G-7 meeting. During closed-door sessions Friday, Trump went around the room, declaring ways that each of the nations had mistreated the United States, according to a European official. Trump has long maintained that his country has been duped by others into signing disastrous trade agreements.
His comments also came just hours after Trudeau had tried to paint a more civil picture of the summit meeting, which was held in a quiet resort town north of Quebec City.
Trudeau had said he was “inspired” by the talks between the seven international allies on economic and foreign policy questions. Trump had posed for pictures with the other world leaders, gripping and grinning amid talks that White House aides insisted were friendly.
Kudlow, a free-trader who joined the administration in March, said Sunday that the United States had in fact been near a substantive agreement with Canada on the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has been the subject of difficult negotiations.
“We were very close to making a deal with Canada on NAFTA, bilaterally perhaps,” he said on CNN, though he did not elaborate.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.