U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday expressed his opinions by sharpening his tariff threat and calling out Chrystia Freeland and claiming he denied Justin Trudeau a bilateral meeting, all because of the federal government’s hard bargaining on North American trade.
Trump made the comments late on Wednesday during a free-wheeling news conference at the end of his two days at the United Nations General Assembly. He was asked if he had denied Trudeau a request for face time while the two leaders were at the UN.
“Yeah, I did,” Trump said. “His tariffs are too high and he doesn’t seem to want to move. And I’ve told him, ‘Forget about it.’
The President then reiterated his threat to slap punitive tariffs on Canadian auto imports to the U.S., a both-barrels tactic experts on either side of the border have warned would devastate the industry.
“Frankly, we’re thinking about just taxing cars coming in from Canada,” Trump said. “That’s the motherlode, that’s the big one. We’re very unhappy with the negotiations and the negotiating style of Canada.”
And then, for good measure: “We don’t like their representative very much.”
That appeared to be a reference to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, a former journalist and careful tactician whose star turn in Trudeau’s government has earned her deep respect in the Liberal caucus and beyond.
Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office disputed the president’s statement — insisting for the second time this week that they did not request a meeting and declining further comment.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether Trump was responding to comments Trudeau made earlier at a news conference of his own similar to what happened over the summer following the G7 meetings in Quebec.
Trump had already left Charlevoix and Trudeau was giving a seemingly benign defence of Canadian interests at a post-summit news conference when the president suddenly erupted into a bitter Twitter tirade from the confines of an airborne Air Force One.
The two leaders have spent little time together since suggesting that the G7 gathering was a turning point in one of the most important high-level diplomatic relationships in the world.
Trudeau, earlier on Wednesday, appeared to give a gentle nudge to the President’s trade ambassador, saying Trump had insisted repeatedly that punitive American tariffs on steel and aluminium wouldn’t be an issue under a new NAFTA.