Trump says he made up facts about trade deficit in meeting with Trudeau

U.S. President Donald Trump boasted in a fundraising speech in Missouri on Wednesday that he made up facts about trade in a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, according to a recording of the comments obtained by the Washington Post.

'I didn't even know' — Trump insisted to Trudeau that U.S. runs a trade deficit with Canada

U.S. President Donald Trump, right, shown with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House last year, told a fundraiser that after Trudeau told him the U.S. does not have a trade deficit with Canada, he replied, 'Wrong, Justin, you do.' (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

U.S. President Donald Trump boasted in a fundraising speech in Missouri on Wednesday that he made up facts about trade in a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, according to a recording of the comments obtained by the Washington Post.

The newspaper said in a report posted on its website that Trump had insisted to Trudeau that the United States runs a trade deficit with its neighbour to the north without knowing whether or not that was the case.

Trump said on the recording that after Trudeau told him the U.S. does not have a trade deficit with Canada, he replied, "Wrong, Justin, you do," then added, "I didn't even know ... I had no idea."

The president said he then "sent one of our guys out" to check the prime minister's claim.

"Well, sir, you're actually right," Trump says in the recording. "We have no deficit but that doesn't include energy and timber and when you do, we lose $17 billion a year. It's incredible."

U.S. President Donald Trump insisted to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that the U.S. runs a trade deficit with Canada without knowing whether that's true 1:02

Trump regularly bemoans a trade deficit with Canada and complained about it in late February by saying: "We lose a lot with Canada. People don't know it. Canada's very smooth. They have you believe that it's wonderful. And it is, for them. Not wonderful for us."

U.S. runs trade surplus with Canada, U.S. says

But a different story is told in the recently released 2018 White House "Economic Report of the President" — an annual document prepared by Trump's own team which bears his signature and contradicts a number of trade statements and policies already articulated by him.

One example involves the supposed trade deficit with Canada. Trump keeps insisting it exists, but the document he signed states Canada is among the few countries in the world with whom the U.S. runs a surplus.

The document states: "The United States ran a trade surplus of $2.6 billion with Canada on a balance-of-payments basis."

Transport Minister Marc Garneau, chair of the cabinet committee on Canada-U.S. relations, reiterated Thursday his government's long-held stance that it's actually the U.S. that has a trade surplus.

"At this point it's very important to point out that there is over $2 billion a day of trade between our two countries and overall annually the United States has a small surplus with Canada of about $8 billion," he told reporters in Montreal. "So we can talk about balanced trade between the two countries, huge amounts of trade, and this is something we want to continue to improve as we negotiate the NAFTA agreement."

Bruce Heyman, the U.S. ambassador to Canada until January, blasted Trump in a series of tweets early Thursday while also apologizing to Canada for Trump's reported comments.

"Lying to your friends only hurts the relationship," he wrote. "Canada has been there for us thru thick and thin. How can you casually damage this relationship? Shame on you!"

Heyman added that the president is "casually throwing Canada under the bus and this is just wrong."

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