U.S.-North Korea Summit Will Be A Major Moment On World's Stage
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Hey, what do two summits reveal about the foreign policy approach of President Trump? He met with U.S. allies over the weekend in Canada. He was polite enough in person, it seems, but cut the meeting short. And then after he left, the president grew angry about a public remark by Canada's prime minister and left a trail of angry tweets across the globe on his way to meet North Korea's leader in another summit. Trump advisers said they'd been stabbed in the back. And trade adviser Peter Navarro went on Fox News.
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PETER NAVARRO: 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. And that's what bad-faith Justin Trudeau did with that stunt press conference.
INSKEEP: The Canadian leader's offense was apparently his statement that Canada will respond to tariffs that President Trump imposed on Canada. Richard Haass was a diplomat in President George W. Bush's administration and now leads the Council on Foreign Relations. He's on the line. Welcome back to the program.
RICHARD HAASS: Thank you, Steve.
INSKEEP: OK, so we can say the president's remarks have been jarring or disruptive or rude. But do they really matter?
HAASS: Well, they do matter in the case of the G-7, which has effectively become a G-6. It tells the allies or the countries formerly known as allies that when the president talked about America First, he seemed to mean it. And that they no longer have a special place in how the United States sees the world - and is willing to take them on publicly to essentially place their entire relationship on a foundation of whether we get what we want on trade. So, yeah, I think it does matter.
INSKEEP: Is the United States not really getting what it wants on trade, though? The president is complaining about Canadian tariffs on dairy, for example. He's now given that supposedly as the reason why the U.S. is imposing steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada, for example.
HAASS: The word preposterous doesn't even begin to capture that, Steve. This is a trade relationship that's - what? - more than $500 billion a year. That dairy amount is less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the overall relationship. Just for starters, you know, the Canadian dairy program looks pretty much like the American sugar program. And by the way, if we wanted slightly greater access into the Canadian market for our dairy exports, we had it. It was called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And the first foreign policy action of Donald Trump was to take the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
INSKEEP: Isn't Canada one country where the U.S. has a rough trade balance anyway?
HAASS: Absolutely. Actually, last year we ran a slight surplus. But even - so again, it's the wrong country to pick on economically. But also, it's the wrong country to pick on, full stop. Again, we have these large relationships with these countries whether in Europe, Japan, South Korea or Canada. And what makes them an alliance is we look at the totality of our relationship. We look at the security and political dimensions as well. And we don't single out a single dispute over, say, dairy exports and put the entire relationship at risk.
INSKEEP: Let me ask you about something that happened at roughly the same time. Even as the president was heading to the G-7 summit in Canada, his National intelligence director, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, was speaking and stated not for the first time that intelligence officials have said this. But it was President Trump's appointee saying that Russia is continuing to move to try to break up U.S. alliances and also, by the way, interfering in some way in the 2018 election or trying to interfere. I don't want to draw a direct connection between the one thing and the other. But is the president doing what Russia would like?
HAASS: Well, he's clearly doing things that rebound to Russia's benefit and to China's benefit and to everybody's benefit but the United States. So again, I can't ascribe his motives. But the impact, the results of what he is doing is bad for American national security. It's bad for the American economy. Again, I just don't see the logic of what he's doing because the result is he's disrupting these relationships that have served the United States well for the best part of three-quarters of a century. And I don't see what he's putting in its place that will be nearly as good for the United States.
INSKEEP: But to take the president's point of view, why not just fight for a better deal - have an argument, see if things shake out better?
HAASS: Well, again, the deal we have isn't so bad. And you risk losing much of the good in the pursuit of something slightly better. And again, to put an entire relationship at risk over, say, one commodity or over one issue, that goes against the entire concept of an alliance where you think big. And you don't let the small threaten the big.
INSKEEP: Presidential adviser Larry Kudlow gave another reason for President Trump's eruption against Justin Trudeau. He said that he didn't want to look weak heading into this big summit in Singapore with the leader of North Korea, didn't want to have the Canadian prime minister pushing him around. Do you think President Trump has positioned himself well for this summit over nuclear weapons with the North Korean leader?
HAASS: The short answer is no. But again, it's not Justin Trudeau's fault. The president has to make sure that he doesn't ask for the impossible going into the North Korean summit. And all this talk about complete, verifiable verification before North Korea would benefit at all seems to me wildly unrealistic. And the president also has to avoid the other extreme - what I call catastrophic success - by being willing to give away too much for too little. But it's all up to him. You can't pin this on Justin Trudeau one way or the other.
INSKEEP: Does President Trump seem prepared to you, in a sentence or two?
HAASS: The idea that he's going to walk into the room and get what he needs to know within one minute is not a reassuring approach.
INSKEEP: Which is something the president has said. Richard Haass, thanks very much, really appreciate it.
HAASS: Thank you, Steve.
INSKEEP: Richard Haass is head of the Council on Foreign Relations and also author of the book "A World In Disarray." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.