Trump says he refused to meet Canada's Trudeau at UN

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US President Donald Trump says he rejected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's request for a meeting during the UN General Assembly because bilateral NAFTA talks are going poorly and the United States is unhappy with Canada's negotiators.
US President Donald Trump (left) passes by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the UN headquarters in New York, on Sept 25, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (AFP) - US President Donald Trump confirmed on Wednesday (Sept 26) that he had refused to meet Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, accusing Canada of treating the United States "very badly".

"Yeah, I did," he told a news conference in New York when asked by a reporter whether he had rejected a one-on-one meeting with Mr Trudeau. "Canada has treated us very badly."

That came after the incident on Tuesday in which Mr Trump appeared to rebuff Mr Trudeau when he approached to shake hands, even though the Canadian leader downplayed the incident.

The two nations have been locked in negotiations for a year on a rewrite of the 25-year-old continental trade deal that Mr Trump blames for losses of US jobs and industry.

But the US leader criticised Canada's trade negotiators and cast doubt on the chances of reaching an agreement on a rewrite of the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), again threatening to impose tariffs on all auto imports.

"I must be honest with you, we're not getting along with their negotiators. We think their negotiators have taken advantage of our country for a long time," Mr Trump said.

Canada's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has spent much of the last month in Washington for talks with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and repeatedly commented on the progress being made and the goodwill in the negotiations.

Mr Trump once again complained about Canada's controlled dairy market, although his comments referred to tariffs that do not apply to US products.

"They have treated our farmers in Wisconsin and New York state and a lot of other states very badly," he said. "How do you sell a dairy product at 300 per cent (tariff)?"

US producers actually sell more dairy product to Canada than they import, and the 300 per cent tariff only applies to goods above the quota, which the US does not meet, according to trade experts.

The two sides also are at odds over the dispute resolution provisions in Nafta.

The White House reached a deal last month with Mexico and informed Congress of the intention to sign a new agreement by the end of November, before the new President takes office in Mexico.

But Mr Lighthizer on Tuesday said time was running out for Canada to be included, and Mexico's trade negotiator Kenneth Smith Ramos said the two countries are ready to proceed.

"Now, if Canada doesn't make a deal with us, we're going to make a much better deal. We're going to tax the cars that come in," he said. "We will put billions and billions of dollars into our Treasury. And frankly, we'll be very happy."

"I don't like Nafta. I never liked it. It's been very bad for the United States. It's been great for Canada. It's been great for Mexico. Very bad for us," Mr Trump said.

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