- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 6, 2018

President Trump won’t back down from his tough line on trade as he heads for a showdown this week with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other allied leaders at the G-7 summit in Canada, the White House’s top economic adviser said Wednesday, even as Congress took a step to tie the president’s hands on tariffs.

The fraught meeting on Friday and Saturday in Charlevoix, Quebec, will be the first time that the Group of Seven leaders from industrialized nations confront Mr. Trump face-to-face since the U.S. slapped tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union last week. U.S. positions on Iran, climate and even the relocation of the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem could also leave Mr. Trump facing concerted opposition at the annual gathering.

The G-7 nations include the U.S., Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan. Right after the G-7 gathering, Mr. Trump is set to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for their hugely anticipated summit in Singapore.

The president will hold bilateral meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron and Mr. Trudeau, who has called the U.S. tariffs “insulting.” EU leaders Wednesday announced they will start imposing their own retaliatory tariffs of U.S. imports starting next month, with U.S. bourbon, peanut butter, cranberries and orange juice among the products face new import duties.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Mr. Trump won’t be swayed from his push for trade deals that defend the vital U.S. economic interests.

“There are disagreements. He’s sticking to his guns. And he’s going to talk to them,” Mr. Kudlow told reporters. “The lines are open, the negotiations are ongoing.”

Mr. Trump’s bargaining position may have been weakened Wednesday on Capitol Hill, where a bipartisan group of senators announced legislation that would give Congress a chance to review any new tariffs before they take effect. Many of Mr. Trump’s fellow Republicans have led the charge against the administration’s aggressive trade moves.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican, said the tariffs hurt American workers and relations with allies, and also “could invite our competitors to retaliate.” Mr. Trump tried to talk Mr. Corker out of the move Wednesday in a phone call that was described as angry.

Despite the turmoil and criticism, Mr. Trump and his advisers believe he is arriving at the summit from a position of strength. They point to a U.S. economy that is humming along with the lowest unemployment since 1969, at 3.8 percent.

The government also reported this week that the U.S. has more job openings than unemployed Americans for the first time since record-keeping began in 2000. Job openings rose to a record 6.7 million at the end of April, while about 6.3 million Americans were looking for work.

The White House said that is proof that Mr. Trump’s policies of low taxes and deregulation are spurring growth of near 3 percent per year.

“The United States now has the fastest-growing economy in the world or at least, the fastest-growing economy among the industrialized nations,” Mr. Kudlow said. “I think the policies are working, and my great hope is that our friends at the G7 will take notice of these policies and work with us to extend and expand them, so we can have a prosperous U.S. and world economy.”

The president’s meeting with Mr. Trudeau could be particularly frosty, given Mr. Trump’s recent sharp criticism of Canada’s trade policies and the anger in Ottawa over Washington’s decision to justify its new tariffs on national security grounds.

Ottawa is also frustrated with the slow-moving talks to update the North American Free Trade Agreement, the 1994 agreement among Canada, the United States and Mexico.

“I know we’re going to have some very, very frank conversations quite clearly around the table,” Mr. Trudeau told Global TV, adding he would convey Canada’s displeasure over the metal tariffs personally when he met Mr. Trump in Quebec.

Mr. Kudlow shrugged off the tensions as a “family quarrel” over “short-term disagreements.”

Mr. Trump has vowed to protect U.S. industry and workers from unfair international competition, and considers tariffs as a “tool” to fight for more reciprocal trade agreements.

The German Press Agency (DPA) reported this week that disagreements with President Trump over trade and climate change policies could lead the Charlevoix summit to conclude without the usual joint communique for the first time in G7 history.

The planned pre-negotiated consensus communique by the group of seven leading industrial nations “is hanging in the balance,” the news agency said.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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