WASHINGTON—He still called him “Justin.” But this time it sounded more friendly than belittling.
After months of publicly expressing disdain for Canada’s prime minister, U.S. President Donald Trump turned over a new leaf on Monday upon announcing that the two leaders had reached a trade agreement.
Trump called Trudeau a “good man.”
“I think Justin’s a good person who’s doing a good job,” Trump said at his news conference in the White House Rose Garden.
Trump acknowledged their relationship “got a little bit testy” in recent months, but he said all of that was now in the past.
He described Trudeau by using such words as “dishonest and weak” or “meek and mild.” He dispatched senior aides to television shows where they called Trudeau “amateurish,” “rogue” and “sophomoric,” and said there was “a special place in hell” for backstabbers like the prime minister.
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He threatened to punish “the people of Canada” for Trudeau’s behaviour. As recently as five days ago, Trump claimed that he had told Trudeau to “forget about it” when Trudeau requested a private meeting, which Trudeau said did not happen.
Trump insisted Monday that he had not taken Trudeau’s trade stances personally, and he said the animosity had not affected the trade negotiations.
“I don’t think it did. He’s a professional, I’m a professional,” he said.
“The only problem with Justin is he loves his people, and he’s fighting hard for his people,” Trump added, saying Trudeau had “done right” by Canadians.
Trump predicted that his relationship with Canada will now be “better than ever.”
Trudeau spoke of Trump in much less personal terms at his own news conference Monday, offering no praise.
He said he had a “very positive call” with Trump on Monday morning about the trade deal, but acknowledged past tensions.
“There’s no question that the question of NAFTA and renegotiating NAFTA has been a challenge in conversations with the president, with the administration over these past 13 months,” Trudeau said in Ottawa.
He said he will continue to have “constructive relations” with Trump, suggesting a relationship more workmanlike than warm.
“Obviously, as I have always said, the relationship between the United States and Canada is much deeper than any two individuals who might be prime minister and president,” Trudeau said.
With files from Bruce Campion-Smith
Daniel Dale is the Star’s Washington bureau chief. He covers U.S. politics and current affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @ddale8