Why would an American president offend allies and cozy up to adversaries?
If there was an answer in Mr. Trump’s tumultuous week on the global stage, it may be that he disregards the traditional preoccupations of American foreign policy — power and values — in favor of a more narrow worldview shaped by his experience as a businessman.
Mr. Trump’s bitter clashes with Canada and Europe over trade, as well as his solicitous courtship of North Korea’s brutal dictator, all reflect this mercantile perspective. In his transactional approach to foreign policy, considerations of financial profit or cost — often measured in ways that economists deem simplistic — can outweigh virtually any other consideration.
.. Trump, like a lot of businessmen, doesn’t pay much attention to Canada, or Europe, or Japan,” Mr. Bader said. “Businessmen pay attention to the growth markets: Vietnam, Brazil, India, China.”
.. A slick promotional video that Mr. Trump showed Mr. Kim sketched out a gleaming vision of a prosperous, nuclear-free North Korea, with swooping construction cranes and high-speed trains.
.. ”They have great beaches,” Mr. Trump said to reporters. “You see that whenever they’re exploding their cannons into the ocean, right? I said, ‘Boy, look at the view. Wouldn’t that make a great condo behind?’ And I explained, I said, ‘You know, instead of doing that, you could have the best hotels in the world right there.’”
.. Mr. Trump considers it a prime location amid booming economies. “Think of it from a real-estate perspective,” he said.
.. “We save a fortune by not doing war games, as long as we are negotiating in good faith — which both sides are!” Mr. Trump said on Twitter.
.. The president expressed particular spite at the B-52 bombers that the United States has flown over South Korea in missions from Guam.
.. a potent manifestation of the American commitment to protect its Asian allies. But to Mr. Trump, they burn a lot of fuel and serve little purpose
.. “I know a lot about airplanes,” he said. “It’s very expensive.”
.. Asked on Tuesday about his clash with Mr. Trudeau after the Group of 7 meeting in Quebec, he answered with a long list of grievances — some based on erroneous data — about the trade deficits the United States runs with Canada, Germany, and other allies.
.. “They don’t take our agricultural products, barely. They don’t take a lot of what we have and yet they send Mercedes into us. They send BMWs into us by the millions. It’s very unfair.”
.. If anything, experts said, this common history is a red flag to Mr. Trump.
.. A consistent theme of the Trump administration has been to downgrade the value of allies and alliances,”
.. “To the contrary, they tend to be judged as military free-riders or economic rivals or both. That many are assertive, independent-minded liberals that regularly challenge the president only makes it worse.”
.. In his single-minded focus on economic gain
.. “The bottom line,” said Daniel R. Russel, a former assistant secretary of state for East Asian affairs now at the Asia Society, “is that President Trump paid retail for a few warmed-over promises and appears to have given away both leverage and deterrence.”
.. “The containment doctrine has given way to the condominium doctrine.”
President Trump repeated on Thursday his false assertion that the United States runs a trade deficit with Canada, the morning after privately telling Republican donors that he had deliberately insisted on that claim in a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada without knowing whether it was true.
Mr. Trump’s private admission to having a loose grasp of the facts and his public refusal to back down from the incorrect statement — the United States has an overall surplus in trade with Canada — were vivid illustrations of the president’s cavalier attitude about the truth, and a reminder of how that approach has taken hold at the White House.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said Mr. Trump had chosen his figures selectively in the conversation with Mr. Trudeau and in a subsequent Twitter post that repeated the claim. The president was referring only to the trade of goods, which ignores the larger trade surplus in services the United States exports to Canada, Ms. Sanders said.
And in a briefing with reporters, she acknowledged that Mr. Trump had fabricated an anecdote he told the donors about unfair trading practices — Japanese officials, he claimed, conduct a test on American cars by dropping a bowling ball on their hoods from 20 feet high, and those that dent are barred from being imported.
“Obviously, he’s joking about this particular test,” Ms. Sanders told reporters who confronted her about the veracity of the tale. “But it illustrates the creative ways some countries are able to keep American goods out of their markets.”
Her explanation came two weeks after Hope Hicks, the White House communications director, told lawmakers on Capitol Hill that she sometimes told white lies on behalf of Mr. Trump.
The latest instance of Mr. Trump bending the truth emerged after The Washington Post published an account of the president boasting about his disingenuous exchange with Mr. Trudeau at a fund-raising dinner on Wednesday night in Missouri. On Thursday, the president refused to back down from the erroneous claim about the trade balance between the United States and Canada.
“We do have a Trade Deficit with Canada, as we do with almost all countries (some of them massive),” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. In an audio recording from the dinner obtained by The Post, a transcript of which was published on Thursday, Mr. Trump recounted how he pressed that point in a meeting with Mr. Trudeau even though he had “no idea” whether it was true.
The United States ran a trade surplus of $600 million in goods and services with Canada in January, according to the Commerce Department
.. But during the fund-raiser for a Senate candidate in Missouri, Mr. Trump said he had refused to concede the point in a meeting with Mr. Trudeau, as the prime minister repeatedly pushed back.
“He said, ‘No, no, we have no trade deficit with you, we have none; Donald, please,’” Mr. Trump told the donors according to the transcript, calling Mr. Trudeau a “nice guy, good-looking.”
“I said, ‘Wrong, Justin, you do.’ I didn’t even know,” Mr. Trump said. “I had no idea. I just said, ‘You’re wrong.’ You know why? Because we’re so stupid.”
Mr. Trump’s retelling drew rebukes from some diplomats and lawmakers who argued that it reflected a dangerous penchant by the commander in chief to misrepresent the truth.
“The president’s admission that he’s literally making things up while speaking face-to-face with a world leader should stop us all in our tracks,” said Representative Eliot L. Engel, Democrat of New York and the ranking member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. “How can any other government — ally or adversary — have any confidence in what our president says when he admits to lying?”
During the conversation, the president said he and Mr. Trudeau had tangled repeatedly about the trade balance, with the prime minister saying, “Nope, we have no trade deficit,” and Mr. Trump ultimately sending an aide to, “Check, because I can’t believe it.”
The president then claimed that his contention had been validated, appearing to quote an aide he said had told him, “‘Well sir you’re actually right. We have no deficit, but that doesn’t include energy and timber. But when you do, we lose $17 billion a year.’ It’s incredible.”
.. Officials in Mr. Trump’s administration insisted that the United States runs a steel trade deficit with Canada even though data from both governments show that trade is balanced.
.. Mr. Trump’s top trade negotiators have presented a list of demands for revising Nafta that Canada has declared unacceptable. Mr. Trudeau has said that Canada is prepared to abandon Nafta rather than accept a “bad deal” and Mr. Trump has similarly threatened to withdraw from the pact.
.. Bruce A. Heyman, the United States ambassador to Canada under President Barack Obama, said that Mr. Trump’s approach was “creating a crisis where none existed before.”
“Lying to your friends only hurts the relationship,” Mr. Heyman wrote on Twitter. “Canada has been there for us thru thick and thin. How can you just casually damage this realtionship?”