Trump, Trudeau had a testy phone exchange over steel tariffs

Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau held a tense telephone call last month over the U.S. president's decision to slap Canada with steep tariffs on steel and aluminum.

U.S. president cites torching of White House during War of 1812

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walks with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau held a tense telephone call last month over the U.S. president's decision to slap Canada with steep tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Trump mentioned the burning of the White House during the War of 1812 during the confrontational May 25 call, which was first reported by CNN and confirmed by CBC News.

Trudeau reportedly asked Trump how tariffs could be imposed on Canada on "national security" grounds. Trump reportedly responded: "Didn't you guys burn down the White House?"

It's not clear if Trump was attempting to inject humour into a discussion on a topic that could have serious economic repercussions.

British troops burned down the White House in 1814 during the War of 1812, in retaliation for an American attack on York, Ont., a British colony at the time.

Former Prime Minister Paul Martin sits down with Power & Politics host Vassy Kapelos to discuss U.S. steel tariffs and how they will impact the G7 summit in Charlevoix, Quebec. 6:34

News of the call in late May emerged just days before the G7 summit that Canada is hosting in Charlevoix, Que., where the two leaders will meet face-to-face.

Ahead of that meeting, French President Emmanuel Macron will arrive in Ottawa to sit down with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa today.

The two leaders will discuss priority issues ahead of the G7 meeting, where talk of trade disputes will be on the table along with the summit's central theme of promoting global gender equality.

"Obviously a lot of opportunities to talk about a range of issues that Canada and France have in common, and quite frankly, also talk about this upcoming weekend's G7, where there will be some very direct conversations on issues where there's been disagreement. Tariffs obviously come to mind on that one," Trudeau said before a weekly meeting with his Liberal caucus.

The Ottawa meetings will give the leaders a chance to strategize on how to deal with the U.S.'s decision to end an exemption on steel and aluminum tariffs that initially had been granted to Canada, Mexico and the EU.

Canada countered by announcing it would slap an estimated $16.6 billion in duties on some steel and aluminum products and other goods from the U.S., including maple syrup, beer kegs, whisky and toilet paper.

The EU has also announced new duties in response.

ABC News reported that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin urged Trump to exempt Canada from the tariffs, citing two senior administration officials and two sources close to the White House. Mnuchin met with Finance Minister Bill Morneau in Whistler, B.C. at a gathering of the G7 finance ministers.

Today, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow denied that report during a press briefing.

After returning from the G7 finance ministers summit in Canada, Mnuchin reportedly made the case that the U.S. has a $2 billion steel surplus with Canada and a nearly $26 billion services surplus, and should consider making an exemption for its northern neighbour, according to the sources.

Trudeau wants trilateral NAFTA talks

Today, Trudeau also responded to Kudlow's suggestion yesterday that Canada hold one-on-one North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations.

Kudlow said Trump is now "very seriously contemplating a shift in NAFTA negotiations."

"His preference now, and he asked me to convey this, is to actually negotiate with Mexico and Canada separately," he told Fox News Tuesday.

Trudeau said Canada intends to focus on trilateral talks with Mexico and the U.S. to achieve a "win-win-win" deal.

"Canada's position is and has always been that the trilateral approach is actually better for Canada, for Mexico, and for the United States," he said. "We think that demonstrating NAFTA as a solid community as we take on the world is very much in all three of our advantages and we're going to continue to negotiate that way." 

Humanitarian agency CARE Canada issued a statement imploring the G7 leaders not to let trade disputes overshadow the focus on supports for women and girls.

Range of issues for G7

"Canada's G7 presidency has advanced an agenda that puts women and girls at the centre of efforts to tackle these challenges. With only days to go until the summit, G7 leaders must stick to their agenda and agree on co-ordinated and bold actions that can deliver real change for those most at risk," said Gillian Barth, president and CEO of CARE Canada.

Trudeau said the summit will be a chance to discuss a range of issues.

"That's what the G7 is very much for, an opportunity for friends and allies to come together and have direct conversations on things that we disagree on, but also highlighting things we do agree on and can move forward on," he said.

Macron and his wife Brigitte Macron are scheduled to arrive on Parliament Hill at 3:55 p.m. ET today, and will be greeted by Trudeau, Senate Speaker George Furey and House Speaker Geoff Regan.

Macron and Trudeau will hold a one-on-one meeting for 30 minutes, before a broader meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau.

The French president will meet with Gov. Gen. Julie Payette at Rideau Hall before sitting down to dinner with Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, at Harrington Lake.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland spoke to reporters as she arrived for QP on Wednesday 0:46

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