The Prime Minister’s Office is refuting claims by U.S. President Donald Trump who said Wednesday he turned down a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau because he was unhappy with Canada’s stance at the NAFTA negotiating table and Ottawa’s refusal to budge on the issue of dairy tariffs.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference in New York, Trump also appeared to target Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who is the Trudeau government’s point person in these difficult negotiations.
“We are very unhappy with the negotiations and the negotiating style of Canada. We don’t like their representative very much,” Trump said at a Wednesday news conference, without specifying who he was talking about.
Asked whether he turned down a meeting with Trudeau on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, Trump said: “Yeah, I did… Because his tariffs are too high and he doesn’t seem to want to move and I’ve told him forget about it.”
“And frankly we’re thinking about just taxing cars coming in from Canada. That’s the motherlode. That’s the big one,” Trump added.
(listen to President Donald Trump responding to a question about why he did not meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly)Listen
However, the Prime Minister’s Office said in an email to Radio Canada International: “No meeting was requested. We don’t have any comment beyond that.”
Speaking to reporters during a press conference on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York on Wednesday, Trudeau also said observers shouldn’t read too much into an awkward moment he had with Trump at a leaders’ luncheon on Tuesday.
Trudeau was asked by a reporter about an interaction between the two leaders during which he shook hands with the American president who remained seated reading notes on the toast he was about to give at the luncheon and made no effort to stand up to greet Trudeau.
“I was thanking the president of South Africa for his extraordinary speech on Nelson Mandela and I moved around the table to say hello to the prime minister of Italy, and then shook hands with President Trump while he was re-reading his notes for his speech for the toast he was about to give,” Trudeau said.
(listen to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s answer to a question about his “awkward” handshake with President Donald Trump)Listen
Trudeau said the interaction with Trump was “quick but cordial. There are all sorts of opportunities for me to speak to President Trump and that was not the time.”
Getting the ‘right deal for Canada’
Trudeau also said Wednesday Canada will not be rushed into a bad trade deal with the United States and Mexico but that he remained optimistic it is still possible to strike an accord that is good for all three countries.
“We will keep working as long as it takes to get to the right deal for Canada,” Trudeau told reporters.
On Tuesday, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer complained that Canada was not making enough concessions in bilateral talks to renew the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and said time was running out before Washington proceeded with a Mexico-only deal.
“We continue to engage in near-continuous negotiations, the conversations are constant and ongoing,” Trudeau said. “We’re very much looking in positive constructive way to getting to a renewed NAFTA that will be a trilateral agreement between Canada, Mexico and the United States.”
Asked about the challenges posed by a U.S. threat of auto tariffs, Trudeau said Canada would need to feel confident “about the path forward as we move forward – if we do – on a NAFTA 2.0,” including a “lack of punitive tariffs that we consider are unjust.”