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Even for Donald Trump, this is a weird story. Here’s the setup:
President Trump boasted in a fundraising speech Wednesday that he made up information in a meeting with the leader of a top U.S. ally, saying he insisted to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that the United States runs a trade deficit with its neighbor to the north without knowing whether that was the case.
“Trudeau came to see me. He’s a good guy, Justin. He said, ‘No, no, we have no trade deficit with you, we have none. Donald, please,’ ” Trump said, mimicking Trudeau, according to audio obtained by The Washington Post….“I said, ‘Wrong, Justin, you do.’ I didn’t even know….He said, ‘Nope, we have no trade deficit.’ I said, ‘Well, in that case I feel differently,’ I said, ‘but I don’t believe it.’ I sent one of our guys out, his guy, my guy, they went out, I said, ‘Check because I can’t believe it.’ ”
So far, this is typical Trump: bragging about how ignorant he is but supposedly getting the better of his oh-so-urbane counterpart anyway. But then “his guy” comes back with the numbers:
‘Well, sir, you’re actually right. 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.”
Energy? Timber? WTF is that supposed to be about? Here’s our actual trade deficit with Canada:
For the past three years, we’ve had a trade deficit in goods with Canada of about $20 billion, mostly because we import lots of oil and natural gas from them (about $70 billion in 2017). But that’s only tangible goods. We export a lot of services to Canada (financial services, computer services, etc.), and as a result we’ve been running a total trade surplus of about $5 billion. This is what Trudeau was talking about. It has nothing to do with timber, and the number $17 billion doesn’t show up anywhere.
This information takes about five minutes to look up. What kind of “guys” does Trump have who come back to him with a cockamamie story like this? Or did they come back with the real numbers and now Trump is just inventing a tall tale about his triumph over Justin Trudeau? Or what? Can anyone out there make any more sense of this story than I can?
POSTSCRIPT: Also, if this story is anywhere close to true, can you just imagine what Trudeau told his people when he got back? I would love to have been a fly on the wall for that debrief.