Trump says he rejected Trudeau’s request for a one-on-one meeting on NAFTA
Speaking at a freewheeling press conference in New York on Wednesday, Trump said he gave Trudeau the cold shoulder “because his tariffs are too high and he doesn’t seem to want to move — and I told him, ‘Forget about it.'”
He added that the United States was more than willing to slap tariffs on Canadian auto imports, if Canada didn’t acquiesce to his demands to reduce tariffs on U.S. dairy.
“We’re very unhappy with the negotiations and the negotiating style of Canada — we don’t like their representative very much,” Trump said, appearing to refer to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who leads Canada’s negotiating team.
“I love Canada by the way, I have so many friends, I have everybody and so many friends, but that has nothing to do with this.”
Shortly after the press conference, the Prime Minister’s Office denied requesting a meeting with Trump.
WATCH: In a lengthy news conference, U.S. President Donald Trump dissed Canada on trade negotiations and even took a swipe at Canada’s trade representative. David Akin explains.
Trump then followed up his expression of displeasure toward Canada with a ringing endorsement of Mexico.
“They were great,” Trump said on Mexican negotiators, before stating that a deal with Mexico is practically done and all that remains is congressional approval.
WATCH: Trudeau says if NAFTA deal reached, Trump says no need to worry about tariffs or quotas
He then took aim at Canada’s dairy supply management system, which he said is hurting Wisconsin dairy farmers by charging them tariffs of up to 300 per cent, before sarcastically characterizing the Canadian position on supply management as, “We don’t have a barrier — but it’s 300 per cent.”
Trump then reiterated his displeasure with Canadian trade officials — “I must be honest, we’re not getting along at all with their negotiators” — and accused Canada of taking advantage of the U.S. for years.
However, he stopped short of categorically ruling out making a deal with Canada, saying that “there’s a chance” of coming to an agreement on a deal which he said would be called “USMC,” short for “U.S.-Mexico-Canada.”
“Canada will come along,” Trump said, before again threatening to tax Canadian auto imports if the Trudeau government didn’t come around.
WATCH: Trump talks about NAFTA’s replacement in Mexico trade deal
Trump’s remarks came just a day after an awkward encounter between him and Trudeau at the United Nations, with Trump appearing to ignore Trudeau at a luncheon until the prime minister tapped him on the shoulder and shook hands, with Trump still seated all along.
“I don’t think there’s anything to read into it,” Trudeau said on the brusque handshake, adding that he regularly engages with Trump and had a “very good call” with him just last week.
WATCH: Trump and Trudeau’s brief UN handshake
Trump’s comments also come on the heels of his national security adviser John Bolton’s suggestion that Canadian requests for a bilateral meeting “couldn’t be accommodated” — although officials in the Prime Minister’s Office insisted no such request had been made.
Earlier Wednesday, Canada’s U.S. envoy David MacNaughton, who has taken part in the Washington talks alongside Freeland, pegged the likelihood of a new trade deal by Sunday’s congressional deadline at a “five” on a scale of one to 10.
While the talks have been “challenging,” the ball is on the U.S. side of the court, MacNaughton said at an event in Toronto hosted by the U.S. website Politico.
“I think everybody knows what each other’s position is on all of the major issues and I think it’s really a question of whether or not the U.S. wants to have a deal.”
WATCH: Trudeau says tariffs are a ‘tool’ Trump has to use
Canada is “anxious” to strike an agreement to bring some certainty to the investment climate and to open the door for Ottawa to start working more closely with the Americans on some of the bigger issues that confront both countries, he added.
“We’ll see where it goes, but so far it’s been tough,” he said. “It’s been long and exhausting, but I think we’ve narrowed the gap.”
— With files from The Canadian Press
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