Trump, Trudeau tariff phone call gets testy after War of 1812 mention

Anna Jefferson
June 7, 2018

The introduction of protective steel and aluminum tariffs, not only for Europe but also for Canada and Mexico, "is in principle the same as sanctions, though put in other terms", the Russian President said. In response, Trump quipped to Trudeau, "Didn't you guys burn down the White House?" referring to the War of 1812.

To be clear: No, they didn't.

During the Burning of Washington, on August 24, 1814, first lady Dolley Madison famously rescued a portrait of George Washington before fleeing the White House. It is believed that the British attack on Washington was in retaliation for the American attack on York, Ontario - territory that eventually became Canada. While Canada didn't burn down the White House - that dubious honor fell to British forces following a USA invasion of what is today Ontario - it was at least on the side of the British, which is perhaps reason enough for the president to use it as an example to make a point about Canada being a national security threat to US interests.

CNN reported that, during a call with Trudeau, Trump referred to the burning of the White House during the War of 1812 after Trudeau asked about new United States tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum. That reasoning has always been a no-go among WTO member states, because they understand that triggering trade disputes under a "national security" framework could eventually render the WTO meaningless.

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USA stocks, apart from those of steel and aluminum producers, have fallen sharply in response to Trump's recent tariff announcements and other actions against trading partners.

"The idea that, you know, our soldiers who had fought and died together on the beaches of World War II and the mountains of Afghanistan, and have stood shoulder to shoulder in some of the most hard places in the world, that are always there for each other, somehow - this is insulting to that", Trudeau said in an interview with NBC.

Canadian soldiers march at a sunset ceremony and mounting of the vigil at the World War I Canadian National Vimy Memorial in Givenchy-en-Gohelle, France on Saturday, April 8, 2017, to honor Canadian soldiers who were killed or wounded during the Battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917.

The problem with that war especially is that it proves exactly what Trump probably didn't want to imply: trade disputes can easily get out of control. The United States has the lowest average tariff in the world.

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The War of 1812 was a conflict fought between U.S. and United Kingdom and their respective allies, when the White House was burnt down by the British.

The reasons for the war included U.S. frustration at the British forcing American merchant sailors into the Royal Navy, as well as trade restrictions on the US. "If President Trump actually referenced the War of 1812, that is frankly absurd". Another point of contention was Britain's support for Native Americans.

But Canada did not exist at the time - it was made up of British colonies.

Two Canadian-based sources said divisions between the United States and other G7 members were so great that senior officials in charge of each nation's preparations planned to hold an unusual additional meeting the night before the summit in a bid to find consensus. Notably, the citizenship guide for both the United States and Canada each claims that their country won the war.

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The other 6 members of the G7 are holding out hope they can find common ground with Trump, but are prepared to stand up to United States protectionism. It's well documented that British troops torched the White House over 200 years ago.

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