President Donald Trump on Wednesday finally admitted that sometimes he just has no idea what he’s talking about.
In audio recordings obtained by The Washington Post, Trump told a crowd at a Missouri fundraising event about a trade meeting he recently had with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“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,” Trump said, according to the Post. “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.’”
Trump told his audience that he eventually admitted he was wrong, but he walked back the entire story in a tweet on Thursday.
According to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the U.S. actually has a trade surplus with Canada, though the truth is a bit more complicated. There are multiple methodologies for calculating trade figures, and by some estimates the U.S. does run a deficit. Canada’s own data even shows it comes out ahead. But as Bloomberg notes, “Whichever data is used, the deficit (or surplus) is still relatively small compared to total trade between the two countries ― between 1 and 2 percent.” And trade deficits aren’t even necessarily a bad thing.
This is hardly the first time Trump has been criticized for misinformation. While he often cites incorrect or misleading information with unflinching confidence, Wednesday’s comments add confusion to already complicated trade talks.
Trump, who has long complained about trade imbalances, recently decided to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Canada and Mexico were exempted from the tariffs, with the caveat that the ongoing talks on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement result in a deal that satisfies Trump. Trump’s admission of cluelessness could make it harder for NAFTA negotiators to take him at his word.
Then again, it might not come as much of a surprise.