‘Fool Trade’ and NATO Defense Spending: Trump Tweets From Singapore

By Patrick Goodenough | June 11, 2018 | 4:21 AM EDT

President Trump holds a working lunch with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Singapore on Monday, June 11, 2018, a day before his summit with Kim Jong Un. Also visible are Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, chief of staff John Kelly, National Security Advisor John Bolton and senior policy advisor Stephen Miller. (Screen capture: YouTube)

(CNSNews.com) – President Trump began his first day in Singapore with a series of tweets in defense of his trade policies, criticizing Canada and the European Union over trade surpluses and saying the Europeans should be spending more on defense.

As Tuesday’s summit with Kim Jong Un looms, Trump alluding in one tweet to the much-anticipated meeting: “Great to be in Singapore, excitement in the air!”

But he appeared more focused initially on the divisive G7 gathering in Canada, firing off five tweets in the space of a little over an hour and a half, relating to unfair trade balances.

Trump ran into strong opposition in Quebec over trade policies including a decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum products from the E.U., Canada and Mexico. After objecting to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s characterization of the summit, he repudiated a joint communique agreed to by the leaders hours earlier, calling the host prime minister “very dishonest and weak.”

Having left the G7 early, Trump then flew almost 10,000 miles east to Singapore, where he arrived on Sunday night local time (Singapore is 12 hours ahead of the eastern U.S.)   

The first tweet came shortly after 9 AM local time on Monday:

Fair Trade is now to be called Fool Trade if it is not Reciprocal. According to a Canada release, they make almost 100 Billion Dollars in Trade with U.S. (guess they were bragging and got caught!). Minimum is 17B. Tax Dairy from us at 270%. Then Justin acts hurt when called out!

Twelve minutes later:

Why should I, as President of the United States, allow countries to continue to make Massive Trade Surpluses, as they have for decades, while our Farmers, Workers & Taxpayers have such a big and unfair price to pay? Not fair to the PEOPLE of America! $800 Billion Trade Deficit ...

The president then tweeted:

.... And add to that the fact that the U.S. pays close to the entire cost of NATO – protecting many of these same countries that rip us off on Trade (they pay only a fraction of the cost – and laugh!). The European Union had a $151 Billion Surplus – should pay much more for Military!

Followed by:

...Germany pays 1% (slowly) of GDP towards NATO, while we pay 4% of a MUCH larger GDP. Does anybody believe that makes sense? We protect Europe (which is good) at great financial loss, and then get unfairly clobbered on Trade. Change is coming!

Finally, Trump added:

Sorry, we cannot let our friends, or enemies, take advantage of us on Trade anymore. We must put the American worker first!

Military spending

In 2014, NATO’s then 28 members committed to ensure that their defense spending amounts to at least two percent of national GDP, by 2024.

Four years on, only five of the now 29 members have reached or exceeded the target, according to alliance figures for 2017, released in March.

They are the United States (an estimated 3.6 percent in 2017, amounting to $685.9 billion); Greece (2.4 percent, amounting to $4.7 billion), Estonia (2.1 percent, $538 million), Britain (2.1 percent, $55.2 billion) and Poland (2.0 percent, $10.3 billion).

Romania (1.8 percent), France (1.8 percent), Latvia (1.7 percent) and Lithuania (1.7 percent) are approaching the two percent mark, but several other members (Slovenia, Spain, Belgium and Luxembourg) have yet to reach one percent of GDP.

Germany, the European Union’s leading economy, was at 1.2 percent in 2017, while Italy, which has the fourth-largest GDP in the E.U., stood at 1.1 percent, according to NATO.

On average, NATO’s 27 European members dedicated an estimated 1.46 percent to defense last year. Canada’s defense spending reached 1.3 percent.

Trump’s Monday tweets pointed both to the two percent of GDP pledge (he inflated the U.S. figure from 3.6 to 4 percent and shrunk Germany’s from 1.2 to one percent), and to the operating costs of the transatlantic alliance, charging that “the U.S. pays close to the entire cost of NATO.”

The U.S. does account for by far the largest contribution to the “common funding” budget that goes towards NATO’s military and civilian costs as well as a program focusing on investment in military command and control systems, construction etc.

For the period beginning January 1 this year and ending December 31, 2019, the U.S. will account for 22.13 percent of that budget, which is divvied up in line with a cost-sharing formula based on Gross National Income.

The next biggest contributors are Germany (14.76 percent), France (10.49 percent) and Britain (10.45 percent).

Fifteen members will pay less than one percent each. Most are former communist countries which joined NATO after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, and the disintegration of former Yugoslavia. They are Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Portugal, Slovakia and Slovenia.

In a television interview on Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel acknowledged that Trump was “in a way” correct, and that the country needs to spend more on defense. She pledged to do so despite it being unpopular at home.


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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow