One of U.S. President Donald Trump’s trade advisers says it was a “mistake” for him to say Prime Minister Justin Trudeau deserved to go to hell for retaliating against Mr. Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs.
Peter Navarro told a business conference in Washington Tuesday that his comment about Mr. Trudeau’s eternal damnation was “inappropriate.”
“My job was to send a signal of strength. The problem was that in conveying that message, I used language that was inappropriate and basically lost the power of that message,” Mr. Navarro told the Wall Street Journal’s CFO Network meeting, according to a recap of the session from the WSJ. “I own that. That was my mistake, my words.”
The spat began at the end of the G7 meeting in Quebec Saturday, when Mr. Trudeau reaffirmed that Canada would retaliate against Mr. Trump’s metals tariffs, which will charge Canada, Mexico and the European Union 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum exported to the U.S. Mr. Trudeau told reporters Ottawa “will not be pushed around” by Washington.
Mr. Trump responded that Mr. Trudeau’s comments were “dishonest and weak,” and dispatched two of his advisers to attack the Prime Minister on television the next day. Economic chief Larry Kudlow told CNN that Mr. Trump was getting “pushed around” by Mr. Trudeau, and that the Prime Minister was making the President look weak before his meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
Mr. Navarro, speaking to Fox News, went a step further.
“There’s 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,” he said. “And that’s what bad-faith Justin Trudeau did with that stunt news conference. That’s what weak, dishonest Justin Trudeau did.”
Mr. Navarro took flak from all sides for the comment. Senate finance committee chairman Orrin Hatch told reporters Mr. Navarro “should have kept his big mouth shut” and declared the comment “out of line.” Bruce Heyman, a former U.S. ambassador to Canada, tweeted that Mr. Navarro should “formally and publicly apologize to Justin Trudeau and more importantly the Canadian people for his insulting and inappropriate remarks.”
Mr. Trump, for his part, continued to threaten Mr. Trudeau Tuesday at a news conference in Singapore after meeting with Mr. Kim.
“That’s going to cost a lot of money for the people of Canada,” he said of Mr. Trudeau’s comments. “He learned. You can’t do that.”
Canada has announced retaliatory tariffs on $16.6-billion worth of U.S. goods, from steel and aluminum to orange juice, pickles and bourbon. They take effect July 1.
Mr. Trump has threatened to bring down a 25-per-cent tariff on all Canadian-made cars and trucks, which would hit four times more exports and jobs than the metals tariffs.