Trump says he rejected NAFTA meeting with Trudeau; PMO says no request made
Published Wednesday, September 26, 2018 11:45AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 27, 2018 11:42AM EDT
U.S. President Donald Trump says he rejected a one-on-one meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau because he’s upset with Canadian tariffs -- but Trudeau’s office says it never extended an invitation.
Trump said Wednesday that he turned down a meeting with Trudeau “because his tariffs are too high and he doesn’t seem to want to move and I told him, ‘Forget about it.’”
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office curtly rejected Trump’s version of events to CTV News, saying “no meeting was requested.”
“We don’t have any comment beyond that,” the spokesperson said.
The back-and-forth followed an explosive and occasionally contradictory press conference in which Trump threatened to slap new taxes on Canada’s auto industry – a business sector he described as “the motherlode” – if NAFTA negotiators fail to reach a deal.
“If Canada doesn’t make a deal with us, we’re going to make a much better deal. We’re going to tax the cars that come in,” Trump said during a press conference at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
“We will put billions and billions of dollars into our treasury, and frankly we’ll be very happy, because it’s actually more money than you can make under any circumstance with making a deal.”
Trump’s new threat comes just four days before the American-imposed deadline, set for Sept. 30, to provide Congress with updated text of the NAFTA deal. The U.S. and Mexico have already reached a consensus following bilateral negotiations.
Canadian negotiators are still meeting behind closed doors with American counterparts in hopes of hammering out an agreement. The two sides have reportedly made progress in recent weeks, but have been unable to settle a few key issues.
Trump cast serious doubts on those talks, saying he was very unhappy with “the negotiations and negotiating style of Canada.” He accused Canada of treating the U.S. “very badly” and specifically called out Canada’s dairy industry, which he says hurts farmers in Wisconsin and New York, his home state.
“Canada has a long way to go. I must be honest with you, we’re not getting along at all with their negotiators,” Trump said.
But Trump later suggested that there’s still “a good chance still” that a deal could happen, but he doesn’t plan to accept “anything near” what Canadian negotiators have proposed.
Specifically addressing Canada’s NAFTA team, Trump said: “We don’t like their representative very much.”
It’s unclear exactly which representative Trump was referring to. Canada is represented by a team of NAFTA negotiators led by Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.
For her part, Freeland has remained optimistic but tight-lipped about the state of NAFTA talks. Last Thursday, she told reporters in Washington, D.C. that the atmosphere in the room “continues to be constructive.”
U.S. Ambassador to Canada Kelly Craft said Wednesday evening that she’d heard Trump’s comments about Canada’s NAFTA representative. Craft insisted there is nothing but respect between U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer and Freeland at the negotiating table.
Trump went on to say that, if a new deal is struck, he refuses to call it NAFTA because he’s “never liked it.” Instead, he said it could be called “U.S.-M-C” – United States, Mexico and Canada – but that’s dependent on the terms of the deal.
“But it’ll probably or possibly be just U.S.-M. It’ll be United States and Mexico,” he said, before interjecting. “Canada will come along.”