Tensions between the U.S. and Canada mounted on Sunday even as President Donald Trump tried to shift his attention to North Korea, with one U.S. official saying there is a “special place in hell” for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after bitter words between the two leaders.
National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said Sunday that Trudeau “really kind of stabbed us in the back” when the Canadian leader told reporters Saturday that his country would stick to its plan to apply retaliatory tariffs to certain U.S. exports beginning next month.
“Theres a special place in hell for any foreign leader that engages in bad-faith diplomacy with President Donald J. Trump and then tries to stab him in the back on the way out the door,” White House adviser Peter Navarro said Sunday on Fox News. “And thats what bad-faith Justin Trudeau did with that stunt press conference.”
Trudeaus administration punched back Sunday. Asked repeatedly by reporters about Navarros “special place in hell” remark, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said: “Canada does not conduct its diplomacy through ad hominem attacks.”
“One thing that I give thanks for is that Im not responsible for explaining the reasoning behind any comments made by the officials of any foreign government,” Freeland told reporters in Quebec City.
The Trudeau comments that seemed to set off the latest bickering came after Trump left the G7 leaders gathering in Canada early and after the U.S. leader had previously decided to slap tariffs on aluminum and steel exports from Canada. But U.S. officials nonetheless took Trudeaus trade remarks personally ahead of potentially tricky negotiations with North Koreas Kim Jong Un, and Trump yanked U.S. support from a joint communique with the other G7 countries as a result.
Trump has hoped his talks with Kim could produce a defining foreign policy victory that would force his critics to validate his view of the world — and give him a big accomplishment to tout heading into his 2020 reelection campaign. Recently, he has tried to play down expectations for this weeks initial meeting, but U.S. officials remain concerned about showing strength heading into the summit.
“POTUS is not going to let a Canadian prime minister push him around … on the eve of this,” Kudlow said on CNN on Sunday.
“He [Trump] is not going to permit any show of weakness on the trip to negotiate with North Korea,” he said. “Kim must not see American weakness.”
Other current and former officials were more blunt in their thoughts on the situation.
European Council President Donald Tusk played off Navarros words in praising Trudeau.
“There is a special place in heaven for @JustinTrudeau,” Tusk wrote on Twitter. “Canada, thank you for the perfect organisation of G7!”
There is a special place in heaven for @JustinTrudeau. Canada, thank you for the perfect organisation of G7!
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) June 10, 2018
A former prime minister of Belgium, Guy Verhofstadt, tweeted out Saturdays Trump-Merkel picture with a barbed caption:
“Just tell us what Vladimir has on you. Maybe we can help.”
The White House said Trump, who has arrived in Singapore for the meeting, spent the Air Force One trip preparing for the summit. The first meeting between U.S. and North Korean delegations is expected Monday.
Meanwhile, the trade dispute closer to home remains unresolved. Freeland said the U.S. tariffs on Canadian aluminum and steel are “insulting” and that Canadas retaliatory tariffs will proceed on July 1.
“Canada does not believe that ad hominem attacks are particularly appropriate or useful to conduct our relations with other countries,” she said, adding that she had a “good” meeting with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Friday afternoon about NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, which is being rewritten. She said she was to speak with him again Sunday.
“We agreed at our meeting on Friday that we would continue our negotiations on NAFTA,” Freeland said.
The U.S had a $17.5 billion goods trade deficit with Canada in 2017, but a $26 billion services trade surplus, according to Lighthizers office. The White House has argued the trade balance is potentially misleading because of international goods shipped through the U.S. into Canada.
“There is no U.S. trade deficit with Canada, and especially if you count services,” Gary Hufbauer, a nonresident senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said in an interview with POLITICO on Sunday. “This is a very selective reading of statistics.”
“One result of this blowup that Trump has dug in for is that there is going to be a lot of sympathy in the U.S. Congress and among the American people for Canada,” Hufbauer said.
Doug Palmer and Brent Griffiths contributed to this report.