US president Donald Trump caused a stink at the G7 summit of world rulers last weekend. He then aired the ruling classes’ dirty laundry on Twitter.
The summit was supposed to smooth over growing splits and a brewing trade war between the US and its Western allies.
The “joint communique” was ready and reaffirmed the G7’s commitment to “free, fair and mutually beneficial trade and investment”.
Usually the joint communique is a series of pompous platitudes as our rulers try to present a united face.
This year Trump caused chaos by refusing to sign.
The focus of Trump’s ire was Canada’s liberal prime minister Justin Trudeau.
Trump said the US refused to sign because “Canada is charging massive tariffs to our US farmers, workers and companies”.
US national trade adviser Peter Navarro joined the fray. “There is a special place in hell for any leader that engages in bad faith diplomacy with President Donald J Trump,” he said.
The furore partly flows from the White House using chaos in order to always appear on the front foot.
“I like chaos. It really is good,” Trump told journalists when he launched his proposals for tariffs on steel and aluminium last month.
And before the G7 summit, Trump threatened, “If we can’t make a deal we’ll terminate [trade agreement] Nafta”. Such a serious move would pit the White House against Mexico, Canada and much of US big business.
Trump’s trade wars can be a precursor towards intensified nationalist rivalries—and further pressure for military competition.
The trade row shows up splits in the Trump administration—and its frictions with sections of US capital.
A trade war is not in the interests of the capitalist class as a whole. Navarro said that tariffs would “reclaim the supply chain” and bring manufacturing back to the US.
The problem is that those global supply chains are profitable for US capitalists.
These fissures don’t mean corporate tax-cutter Trump and capital are in two opposing camps.
He stands in a long line of presidents who have sought to defend US capitalism’s interests in the world.
The differences are over what’s the best way to do this.
While the US remains the largest military superpower, it faces increasing economic competition from China.
It’s tried a number of ways of dealing with this. George Bush murdered a million Iraqis. Controlling the tap on the world economy would have sent a message to China and the US’s other rivals.
The US defeat in Iraq forced Barack Obama to change tack. He shifted the US’s resources to the Pacific in the “pivot towards Asia”.
Trump has tried to return to a go it alone strategy—even threatening nuclear war with North Korea.
But after the G7 summit, Trump flew to Singapore for denuclearisation talks with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
The tensions over Korea are part of a broader confrontation with China. The imposition of tariffs is part of the same process.
They are seen as a victory for Navarro, an economist who is hostile to China.
While Trump’s methods of rule are different, his aims are the same as the other G7 rulers—protecting the rich and powerful, and their system.