Donald Trump lied to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a trade discussion, or, as Trump braggingly sees it, he successfully bluffed:
“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 of the private event in Missouri obtained by The Washington Post. “Nice guy, good-looking guy, comes in — ‘Donald, we have no trade deficit.’ He’s very proud because everybody else, you know, we’re getting killed.
“ … So, he’s proud. I said, ‘Wrong, Justin, you do.’ I didn’t even know. … I had no idea. I just said, ‘You’re wrong.’ You know why? Because we’re so stupid. … And I thought they were smart. I said, ‘You’re wrong, Justin.’ 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.’
‘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.”
The Office of the United States Trade Representative says the United States has a trade surplus with Canada.
So Trump made sh*t up, and when Trudeau refused to accept Trump’s lie, a Trump aide went out and searched around until they found a number that made Trump seem right. According to U.S. data, the U.S. has a $7.7 billion surplus with Canada, while according to Canadian data, Canada has a $14.6 billion surplus. If the entire question of whether the U.S. has a trade surplus or deficit with Canada hinges on how you measure it and to make Trump seem right you have to go with the Canadian data, it’s for damn sure false that “we’re getting killed.”
But more than the question of whether Trump was right or wrong when he went on how “I feel” and insisted on the thing he wanted to be true, there’s the reality that this is how the president of the United States is dealing with other world leaders—with close allies, no less. Leaders of other countries know that Donald Trump will sit down and lie to their faces. He’ll lie when he knows better and he’ll lie when he doesn’t know a damn thing because he didn’t bother to prepare for a meeting. Negotiating with him—on, say, steel and aluminum tariffs, or for that matter on relations with North Korea—will mean negotiating with a constantly shifting quicksand of lies, fantasies, and ego.