Trump remarks shed light on his sudden imposition of tariffs

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“I Didn’t Even Know….I Had No Idea”

Donald Trump admits that he made up “facts” about trade in a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

At a fundraiser in Missouri on Wednesday, Trump recalled how he insisted to Trudeau that the US has a trade deficit with Canada.

Trudeau came to see me. He’s a good guy, Justin. He said [mimicking Trudeau], “No, no, we have no trade deficit with you, we have none. Donald, please.”

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.”

In an audio recording of the speech, obtained by The Washington Post, Trump appears to try to shift blame to his advisors, “You know why? Because we’re so stupid….And I thought they [the advisors] were smart.”

Trump continues:

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.”

The staffer then tried to cover up Trump’s mis-statement, “Well, sir, you’re actually right. We have no deficit, but that doesn’t include energy and timber….And when you do, we lose $17 billion a year.”

In fact, the US has a trade surplus with Canada, according to the Office of the United States Trade Representative.

Attacking US Allies Over Trade

Trump’s remarks take on added significance because of his sudden imposition of tariffs on steel and aluminum two weeks ago, a step which brought the resignation of his chief economic advisor Gary Cohn. The 25% charge on steel imports was a particular concern for Canada, the largest source of foreign steel for the US.

Trump eventually excluded Canada and Mexico from the tariff because of probable violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. However, his protection advisors are hoping to use the issue to reopen negotiations on NAFTA’s terms.

In his Wednesday speech, Trump attacked US allies such as European Union, Japan, and South Korea as well as China of ripping off America for decades. He described NAFTA and derided the World Trade Organization for supposedly allowing other countries to box in the United States on trade.

Trump even appeared to threaten to withdraw US troops from South Korea:

We have a very big trade deficit with them, and we protect them. We lose money on trade, and we lose money on the military. We have right now 32,000 soldiers on the border between North and South Korea. Let’s see what happens.

And he accused Japan of using gimmicks to deny access to US auto companies:

It’s the bowling ball test. They take a bowling ball from 20 feet up in the air and drop it on the hood of the car. If the hood dents, the car doesn’t qualify. It’s horrible.

He concluded, “Our allies care about themselves. They don’t care about us.”