Further disrupting already contentious NAFTA negotiations with Canada, U.S. President Donald Trump reportedly bragged in off-the-record remarks to Bloomberg—but "obtained" and published by the Toronto Star on Friday—that he is not compromising with Canada at all, but can't admit this publicly because "it's going to be so insulting they're not going to be able to make a deal."
"Here's the problem. If I say no—the answer's no," Trump said off the record during an Oval Office interview with Bloomberg, according the Star's Daniel Dale, who obtained the president's comments from an anonymous source. "If I say no, then you're going to put that, and it's going to be so insulting they're not going to be able to make a deal."
"I can't kill these people," Trump reportedly said of the Canadian government.
The Star continued:
In another remark he did not want published, Trump said, according to the source, that the possible deal with Canada would be "totally on our terms." He suggested he was scaring the Canadians into submission by repeatedly threatening to impose tariffs.
"Off the record, Canada's working their ass off. And every time we have a problem with a point, I just put up a picture of a Chevrolet Impala," Trump said, according to the source. The Impala is produced at the General Motors plant in Oshawa, Ontario.
Trump's remarks were immediately seized upon by the Canadian government as evidence that the White House has not been negotiating in good faith.
While some journalists raised questions about the Star's sourcing, Dale reported that "Trudeau's team believed the remarks to be accurate, and it saw them as confirmation of its suspicions that Trump's team has not been truly planning to compromise."
After learning of Trump's reported comments, Canadian officials "sprung" the president's remarks on U.S. negotiators during a high-level NAFTA meeting on Friday, according to Dale. It is not known how Trump's team responded to the comments.
What happened: I obtained these quotes. I'm not bound by Bloomberg's "off the record" promises. I asked the White House and the Trudeau team for comment. The Trudeau team, which is certain the quotes are accurate, sprung them on Trump's team at the meeting this morning.
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) August 31, 2018
White House hasn't disputed the authenticity of the quotes but suggested I shouldn't publish. Deputy Press Sec Lindsay Walters said, “If this was said, it was said in an off the record capacity. I understand you guys have obtained it; I’m not sure where you’ve obtained it from.”
— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) August 31, 2018
Dale went on to observe that it's "noteworthy that Trump, who has claimed to be indifferent about whether Canada signs a deal, is interested enough in securing Canada’s participation that he went off the record to avoid an optics problem for Trudeau."
"And the comments are a rare example of Trump self-censoring his public remarks out of concern for diplomatic sensitivities," Dale noted. "The president is proud of his fondness for insults—Trudeau has been one of his favorite recent foreign targets—and of his disregard for conventions of politeness."
"The only agreement that can achieve broad support must end NAFTA's job outsourcing incentives and add strong environmental and labor terms with swift and certain enforcement to raise wages."
—Lori Wallach, Public Citizen's Global Trade WatchWhile Trump's self-imposed deadline for the completion of a NAFTA deal with Canada is Friday, Canadian foreign minister Chrystia Freeland said during a break from Friday's meetings, "We're not there yet."
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau added in statement after Trump's reported remarks were published that "no deal is better than a bad deal for Canada and for Canadians."
As Common Dreams reported, Trump indicated on Monday that he is willing to leave Canada out of the trade negotiations entirely, in favor of a bilateral deal with Mexico that he called the "United States-Mexico Trade Agreement."
Though the details of the negotiations are murky, Lori Wallach—director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch division—said in a statement on Thursday that "any final deal must be judged on whether it will stop NAFTA's serious ongoing damage, given the pact now helps corporations outsource more jobs to Mexico every week."
"As we have made clear since day one of renegotiations," Wallach added, "the only agreement that can achieve broad support must end NAFTA's job outsourcing incentives and Investor State Dispute Settlements tribunals—where corporations can attack our laws—and add strong environmental and labor terms with swift and certain enforcement to raise wages."