PARIS -- During an impromptu press conference at last weekend's G7 summit in rural Quebec, U.S. President Donald Trump described America as "the piggy bank that everybody's robbing." It was actually a perfect metaphor for taxpayers in G7 countries.
Our leaders meet at fancy resorts each year to reassure each other of a status quo with which citizens are fed up -- a status quo that leaders such as Trump have been elected to shake up. At the G7 summit, Trump was the wrecking ball slamming into the exclusive little confab, sending herb tuile and wildflower honey crumble flying everywhere.
This annual summit is supposed to be barely more than a photo op to show the world that Western nations are all on the same page -- which doesn't mean much to residents of these countries if the priority is accommodating the interests of the elites rather than those of the average person. The resulting summit communique is typically a snooze-inducer. If it isn't addressing "problems" that can't realistically be solved, like attempting to control the temperature of the Earth's atmosphere, then it's railing about countries with competing political and economic interests, like Russia and Iran. Trump even mused that Russia should be readmitted to the group in the interests of pragmatism.
If there was a bigger bomb to throw into this party, Trump had thrown it a few days earlier when he imposed steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada, Mexico and European Union countries. Trudeau and Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland responded by announcing "dollar-for-dollar" tariffs on U.S. products. The list of products that will be subject to Canadian tariffs was drawn up carefully and targets U.S. congressional districts where a Republican is currently in power (and in many cases running for re-election in November).
Economic realities will ultimately resolve these trade issues, but Trump's upending of conventional wisdom has introduced a rare opportunity for Western allies.
European Commission President Donald Tusk said at the summit that the "rules-based international order is being challenged" by its main architect: America. Indeed it is, and Trump was elected by people who were sick of the status quo. Many American voters are unhappy with the current international order -- specifically with the way the U.S. and EU establishments effortlessly mobilize their counterparts in other nations in order to do the bidding of a small group of global elites.
We citizens don't want top-down global governance. We want our nations to make decisions independently, based on the interests of the citizenry. We don't want our governments to be dragged into things simply because they signed up to be members of some country club -- a literal club of countries.
We keep hearing about how much good this global collectivism has done for the average person. But where, for example, have endless conflicts in the Middle East gotten the average Western citizen? How about ongoing beefs with Russia? How have Western workers benefitted from free-trade agreements with nations that pay slave wages? What do Western citizens gain from open borders for low-wage workers under the pretext of humanitarianism? And how has the Earth measurably benefited from governments squeezing taxpayers for more cash under flimsy environmental pretexts?
Trump's willingness to upend decades-old free trade with Canada, America's closest and most reliable ally, is an invitation to every other Western nation to rethink its own positions. This is a once-in-a-lifetime earthquake that likely won't be seen ever again -- certainly not in this generation. Perhaps it's not a good idea to have all of one's interests concentrated in a single basket. Diversification of trade is smart, and economic overreliance on a small number of trade partners tends to dictate a country's military commitments.
The countries that comprise the nuclei of both the G7 and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are the same: America, Canada, Britain, France, Germany and Italy. If one acts, then they all do. And since NATO has never really been able to update its mandate from a Cold War anti-Russian mindset, it has continued to justify its existence by constantly ginning up conflict with Russia.
How many citizens of G7 countries actually view NATO's Russian bogeyman as a legitimate threat to their way of life? Enough to justify the exorbitant amounts of money that these countries contribute to NATO? Not likely.
Instead of whining about Trump threatening divorce, these countries would best serve their citizens by looking around to fill their dance cards more intelligently to better secure their needs in the long term.