U.S. President Donald Trump delivered a vague jab at Canadian trade practices on Monday.
“We lose a lot of money with Canada. Canada does not treat us right in terms of the farming and the crossing the borders,” he said at a White House event on his new infrastructure proposal.
“So they’ll either treat us right or we’ll just have to do business a little bit diff… really differently,” he said. “We cannot continue to be taken advantage of by other countries.”
Trump has sometimes struggled to speak clearly about trade specifics, and it was not at all clear what he meant by “the crossing the borders” or by “the farming.”
In the ongoing NAFTA renegotiation talks, Trump’s negotiators have taken aim at Canada’s protectionist supply management system for dairy and poultry. Trump himself complained last year about Canada’s practices with regard to one agricultural matter, over ultrafiltered milk.
Canadian officials have played down Trump’s previous criticism as the usual sound and fury associated with any trade negotiation. Despite Trump’s renewed criticism of Canada on Monday, his NAFTA rhetoric has generally been more positive in 2018 than it was in 2017.
He suggested again on Monday that he is willing to give his negotiators time to work rather than quickly initiating a withdrawal from the agreement, though he then suggested immediately that he is not worried about the possible harm of a withdrawal.
“Hopefully the renegotiation will be successful. And if it’s not, we’ll be more successful,” he said.
The Canadian government has disputed Trump’s frequent claim that the U.S. “loses” money on trade with Canada. When services trade is counted, the U.S. has a trade surplus with Canada, not a deficit.
“The sum of our trade, including both goods and services, is essentially balanced. In fact, in 2016, the U.S. enjoyed a trade surplus with Canada of close to $8 billion (U.S.). In manufactured goods, your surplus was nearly $36 billion,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a speech Friday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California. “Those are American numbers, by the way, from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, in the Department of Commerce.”
Trudeau also rejected Trump’s conception of trade as a battle between winners and losers.
“Trade is not a hockey game. The truth is that both Canada and the United States are winning. And so is Mexico. And that’s how we should keep it. When trade is working as it should, all partners win,” he said.
Trump also complained Monday about Mexico and other unnamed countries. He said he would be introducing a proposal for a “reciprocal tax” on imports aimed at punishing countries with tariffs he described as unfair.
“Some of them are so-called allies, but they are not allies on trade,” he said.
The seventh round of NAFTA talks is scheduled to begin in Mexico City in late February.