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Trade

‘I had no idea’: Trump boasts he made up trade statistics in negotiations with Canada’s Trudeau

At fundraising dinner, Trump told guests that he simply told Trudeau he was wrong about the US having a trade surplus with Canada – a fact supported by the US trade office

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 March, 2018, 1:37pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 March, 2018, 2:53pm

US President Donald Trump boasted in a fundraising speech on Wednesday that he made up facts in a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, saying he insisted that the United States runs a trade deficit with its neighbour to the north without knowing whether that was the case, which it is not.

“Trudeau came to see me. He’s a good guy, Justin. He said, ‘No, no, we have no trade deficit with you, we have none. Donald, please,’ ” Trump said, mimicking Trudeau, according to audio obtained by The Washington Post. “Nice guy, good-looking guy, comes in – ‘Donald we have no trade deficit.’ He’s very proud because everybody else, you know, we’re getting killed. …

“So he’s proud. I said, ‘Wrong Justin, you do.’ I didn’t even know. … I had no idea. I just said, ‘You’re wrong.’ You know why? Because we’re so stupid … And I thought they were smart. I said, ‘You’re wrong Justin.’ He said, ‘Nope we have no trade deficit.’ I said, ‘Well in that case I feel differently,’ I said, ‘but I don’t believe it.’ I sent one of our guys out, his guy, my guy, they went out, I said ‘check because I can’t believe it.’

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“‘Well, sir, you’re actually right. We have no deficit but that doesn’t include energy and timber … And when you do, we lose US$17 billion a year.’ It’s incredible.”

In fact, the United States trade representative office agrees with Trudeau that the United States has a trade surplus with Canada.

Trump launched a blistering attack against major US allies and global economies, accusing the European Union, China, Japan and South Korea of ripping off the United States for decades and pillaging the American workforce. He also described the North American Free Trade Agreement as a disaster and heaped blame on the World Trade Organisation for allowing other countries to box the United States in on trade.

He also seemed to threaten to pull US troops stationed in South Korea if he didn’t get what he wanted on trade with Seoul, an ally. He said the country had gotten rich but United States politicians never negotiated better deals. “We have a very big trade deficit with them, and we protect them,” Trump said. “We lose money on trade, and we lose money on the military. We have right now 32,000 soldiers between North and South Korea. Let’s see what happens.”

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“Our allies care about themselves,” he said. “They don’t care about us.”

Trump’s comments that laid bare his approach to arguing trade with foreign leaders show how he might try to engage with numerous other heads of state in the coming weeks. Trump has said he will impose tariffs on steel and trade imports as soon as next week, a steep increase in duties that could impact some of the US government’s biggest trading partners.

Trump said countries can request exemption from these tariffs but only after direct negotiations with him. And the audio from the fundraiser shows how difficult these discussions might prove.

In his 30-minute speech to donors in Missouri, Trump heaped praise on himself while ticking through a list of US allies that he said were actually taking advantage of the United States.

While his White House picked up the pieces after a Republican lost a special election in a western Pennsylvania congressional district that Trump won by 20 per cent in 2016, and pollsters said the results showed how Trump was dragging down the Republican Party, Trump took none of the blame. He said that the candidate, Rick Saccone, would have lost even bigger without him. And he said the Democrat, Conor Lamb, won the seat because he was “like Trump”.

Trump was in Missouri to raise funds for Josh Hawley, who is taking on incumbent Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill. He called McCaskill “bad for Missouri, and bad for the country.” But he barely spoke about Hawley. Instead, he talked about Trump – even bragging about his 2016 election win.

Trump described his decision to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un through the prism of making history and besting his predecessors while lamenting his media coverage, questioning the United States allies and labelling his presidency as “virgin territory.”

“They couldn’t have met” with Kim, he said, after mocking former presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush. “Nobody would have done what I did.”

“It’s called appeasement, please don’t do anything,” he said of other presidents.

“They say, maybe he’s not the one to negotiate,” he said, mocking a voice of a news anchor. “He’s got very little knowledge of the Korean Peninsula. Maybe he’s not the one … Maybe we should send in the people that have been playing games and didn’t know what the hell they’ve been doing for 25 years.”