President Donald Trump

Jasper Colt-USA TODAY

Report Says Trump Made Up Claim About Trade Deficit With Canada, But White House Says He Was Right

March 15, 2018 - 5:15 pm

WASHINGTON (WCBS 880) -- Published reports Thursday indicated that President Donald Trump made up a claim about a trade deficit with Canada in a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but White House officials said the claim was true.

The Washington Post quoted Trump at a private fundraising speech in Missouri Wednesday, in which Trump said Trudeau had come to see him and had insisted that Canada had no trade deficit with the U.S.

As quoted by the Washington Post, Trump said: “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.’”

Trump was quoted further in the Post as saying an official told him he was right. The Post reported quoted the official as saying: “‘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.”

Since the remarks came out, White House officials have been saying there the U.S. does indeed have a deficit with Canada, CBS News’ Bill Rehkopf told WCBS 880’s Steve Scott and Michael Wallace.

“Since then, the administration has scrambled to try to show that even if he made it up, he was correct about this,” Rehkopf said.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Thursday that Trump was referring to trade in “goods.” She issued a tweet saying the U.S. had a $17.58 billion deficit with Canada in 2017, and a $3.63 billion deficit in January of this year.

Trade in goods would include cars, food and clothing, and CBS News reports the U.S. does indeed import more goods from Canada than it exports. The deficit in goods with Canada amounted to $23.2 billion in 2017, CBS News reported.

But for trade in services – which includes everything from tourism to legal services – Commerce Department data indicate that the U.S. has a $25.9 billion surplus with Canada.

If goods and services are combined, the U.S. had a trade surplus of $2.7 billion last year, CBS News reported.

“Maybe (Trump) made it up, but was he right?” Rehkopf said. “Well, still up for debate.”