‘Don’t worry about Canada’

Leaked call shows Trump’s com­ments about trade

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA -

A leaked tran­script of a Don­ald Trump phone call shows the pres­i­dent’s pri­vate com­ments about trade with Canada, and sug­gests he had an over­whelm­ingly pos­i­tive at­ti­tude about the north­ern neigh­bour as he took of­fice.

The pur­ported re­marks made in a pri­vate phone call from late Jan­uary are ev­ery bit as flat­ter­ing as the pres­i­dent’s pub­lic com­ments just days later when Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau vis­ited the White House.

They came in a call with Mexican Pres­i­dent En­rique Pena Ni­eto and were part of a leaked tran­script pub­lished Thurs­day by the Wash­ing­ton Post. The con­text for the ex­change was Trump’s bit­ter and es­ca­lat­ing feud with Mex­ico at the time.

U.S.-Mex­ico re­la­tions had just reached their nadir over the pro­posed bor­der wall, and who would pay for it. Pena Ni­eto can­celled a trip to Wash­ing­ton.

In the call, Trump told the Mexican pres­i­dent that he got huge crowds dur­ing the cam­paign, and had promised throngs of 25,000 to 50,000 peo­ple that Mex­ico would pay for the wall, so he pleaded with the Mexican pres­i­dent not to pub­licly con­tra­dict him on the is­sue.

Pena Ni­eto en­cour­aged a more pos­i­tive dis­cus­sion: He sup­pos­edly urged Trump to fo­cus on the fact that the three NAFTA coun­tries could ne­go­ti­ate a new trade frame­work. That prompted a re­join­der from the pres­i­dent.

“Canada is no prob­lem,’’ Trump replied, ac­cord­ing to the leaked tran­script.

“Do not worry about Canada, do not even think about them. That is a sep­a­rate thing and they are fine and we have had a very fair re­la­tion­ship with Canada. It has been much more bal­anced and much more fair. So we do not have to worry about

Canada, we do not even think about them.’’

Those re­marks echo pub­lic com­ments he made a few days later at a news con­fer­ence with Trudeau. His rhetoric has ebbed and flowed since then. Trump has com­plained about Cana­dian dairy and lum­ber poli­cies, and of­ten threat­ens to scrap NAFTA bar­ring a new deal.

The re­al­ity en­ter­ing trade talks is a bit more mun­dane.

The U.S. has posted its pri­or­i­ties for the NAFTA ne­go­ti­a­tions start­ing Aug. 16, and they lie some­where be­tween the two ex­tremes of the every­thing-is-fine at­ti­tude in that Jan­uary phone call and the more ag­gres­sive talk favoured by some Trump ad­vis­ers and oc­ca­sion­ally the pres­i­dent him­self.

The U.S. po­si­tions in­clude a laun­dry list of tra­di­tional Amer­i­can de­mands when it comes to Cana­dian trade. Most of the U.S. NAFTA de­mands could be found on an­nual lists pub­lished by the U.S. gov­ern­ment, year

af­ter year.

Those de­mands in­clude more ac­cess for U.S. dairy and wine on Cana­dian store shelves; freer trade in telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and bank­ing; stricter patent rules for drugs; and tax cuts for on­line shop­ping of im­ported U.S. goods.

Other pri­or­i­ties dear to the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion in­clude changes to auto-parts rules and the dis­pute-set­tle­ment process.

A Cana­dian trade ex­pert doesn’t put much stock in those Jan­uary quotes. That’s be­cause the pres­i­dent’s tune has changed, and could change again, said Peter Clark, a for­mer fed­eral of­fi­cial and now pres­i­dent of Grey, Clark, Shih and As­so­ciates.

“That was then, this is now,’’ Clark said in an interview. “I think (Trump) was pretty re­laxed about Canada early in the year... He’s got his neck out now on dairy, on lum­ber...

“He’s only as re­li­able as his last tweet, or his last phone call.’’


In this photo taken Jan. 28, 2017, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks on the phone with Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull in the Oval Of­fice of the White House in Wash­ing­ton. Tran­scripts of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s con­ver­sa­tions with the lead­ers of Mex­ico and Aus­tralia in Jan­uary of­fer new de­tails on how the pres­i­dent par­ried with the lead­ers over the pol­i­tics of the bor­der wall and refugee pol­icy, with ran­dom asides on sub­jects in­clud­ing drug abuse in New Hamp­shire.

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