World

Report: Trump And Trudeau Exchanged Strange Handwritten Notes That Might Define Their Conflicted Relationship

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David Krayden Ottawa Bureau Chief

President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have reportedly exchanged some handwritten correspondence that defy the usual diplomatic exchanges between the two countries.

In the first instance, Trump reached for the May 1-7 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek that had a picture of “The Anti-Trump” Trudeau on the cover. The president removed it from the rest of the periodical and added his personal notation with a silver Sharpie marker: “Looking good! Hope it’s not true!” according to sources close to Axios.

U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the South Lawn before their meeting about the NAFTA trade agreement at the White House in Washington, U.S. October 11, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RC1E8EEDDFA0

U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the South Lawn before their meeting about the NAFTA trade agreement at the White House in Washington, U.S. October 11, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Before the message was sent to Trudeau, the National Security Council vetted the document and wondered if this was an appropriate form of correspondence between two world leaders — even if their respective nations are intimately linked through a continental trade deal and a myriad of military treaties. (RELATED: Trump Says Trudeau Doing ‘Spectacular’ Job As PM)

Ultimately it went in the mail because “it was done in good fun and would be interpreted as positive outreach,” a source involved in the incident told Axios. So the White House mailed the magazine cover to the Canadian Embassy in Washington.

When Canadian Ambassador David McNaughton opened the letter, he apparently thought it was a practical joke. But a quick call to the White House confirmed otherwise.

The two also shared written notes over the United States supposedly having a trade deficit with Canada. On Dec. 8, 2017 Trump told a Pensacola, Florida rally that one of the reasons the U.S. need to replace NAFTA was because of the alleged negative trade balance. (RELATED: Trudeau Says He Understands Trump Better But That Doesn’t Mean He’ll Necessarily ‘Hang Out’ With Him)

Trump again used his Sharpie marker, writing something like “Not good!” on a document that purported to show the trade deficit.

U.S. President Donald Trump shake hand with Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as they attend the USMCA signing ceremony together with Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto before the G20 leaders summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina November 30, 2018. REUTERS/Andres Stapff

U.S. President Donald Trump shake hand with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as they attend the USMCA signing ceremony together with Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto before the G20 leaders summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina Nov. 30, 2018. REUTERS/Andres Stapff

But Trudeau soon pointed out in a hand-written response that Trump was only talking about the total amount of goods flowing between the two countries and not including the services. Trudeau flatly called out Trump for misrepresenting the situation to his cheering crowd.

“Dear Donald,” Trudeau wrote in the letter dated Dec. 20, 2017, according to a source with direct knowledge of its contents, which 2 other sources confirmed. “It’s been a busy year! Enjoy the Christmas holidays — you deserve it.”

“One thing,” Trudeau added. “You gave a great speech in Pensacola, but you were slightly off on the balance of trade with Canada. USTR [United States Trade Representative] says so! All the best for 2018, Justin.”

Trudeau enclosed a printout from the Office of the USTR that outlined trade with Canada.

The White House’s own “Economic Report of the President” for 2018 also contradicted Trump’s claim, saying Canada is almost unique in that it has a trade deficit with the US, stating “The United States ran a trade surplus of $2.6 billion with Canada on a balance-of-payments basis.”

Trudeau took a pen and underscored a line that stated that “the U.S. goods and services trade surplus with Canada was $12.5 billion in 2016.” Not only did the prime minister put a circle around the dollar amount, he added a hand-drawn happy face to the page, according to Axios sources.

Trump and Trudeau have had a complicated relationship. Trump called the Canadian PM “very dishonest and weak” following the 2018 G7 summit. However, Trudeau has often drawn parallels to himself and the president.  With an election coming in October, Trudeau is running political ads that purport that his Liberal Party has “made Canada great again” in an apparent homage to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. Trudeau once described Trump as an effective leader who “gets things done” during a speech to European leaders, while insisting that both he and the president appeal to appreciative middle class voters.