President Trump projected confidence as he left a Group of Seven summit in Canada to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore, predicting he will know “within the first minute” whether Kim is serious about denuclearization.
“Just my touch, my feel,” Trump said at a news conference. “That's what I do.”
The Fix has annotated a transcript of the president's exchange with reporters, using Genius. To view an annotation, click on the yellow, highlighted text.
TRUMP: Well, thank you very much. I appreciate it. We're getting ready to make a big trip. We're just leaving, but we wanted to have a little bit of a conference just to announce what's happened, how we've done. And I think it's been very, very successful.
We've concluded a really tremendously successful G-7 and would like to provide you with an update. And you know the gentlemen up are the legendary Larry Kudlow and the legendary John Bolton. And we had a good meeting, both on defense and environment and, frankly, on tariffs, which are what we're here for.
First, I'd like to thank Prime Minister Trudeau for hosting this summit. It has worked out to be so wonderful. The people of Canada are wonderful, and it's a great country — and a very beautiful country, I might add.
We tackled a variety of issues and opportunities facing our nations. At the top of the list was the issue of trade — a very important subject — because the United States has been taken advantage of for decades and decades, and we can't do that anymore. We had extremely productive discussions on the need to have fair and reciprocal — meaning, the same. People can't charge us 270 percent and we charge them nothing. That doesn't work anymore.
I made a lot of statements having to do with clarity. We want and expect other nations to provide fair market access to American exports, and that we will take whatever steps are necessary to protect American industry and workers from unfair foreign trading practices, of which, really, there are many. But we're getting them straightened out, slowly but surely.
We also discussed the issue of uncontrolled migration and the threat that it poses to both national security and other groups and countries, and our citizens and quality of life. We're committed to addressing the migration challenge by helping migrants to remain and prosper in their own home countries.
A wide array of national security threats were addressed, including the threat of Iran. The G-7 nations remain committed to controlling Iran's nuclear ambitions — with or without them, those ambitions are going to be controlled — along with efforts to combat terrorism and extremism and those who spread this deadly ideology.
The nations of the G-7 are bound together by shared values and beliefs. That came out loud and clear. Each of our nations is totally unique with our people and our own sovereign obligations. But we can coordinate together and achieve a common good — a good for all, good for all of our people, all of our nations.
We're linked in the great effort to create a more just, peaceful and prosperous world. And from the standpoint of trade and jobs and being fair to companies, we are really, I think, committed. I think they are starting to be committed to a much more fair trade situation for the United States because it has been treated very, very unfairly. And I don't blame other leaders for that. I blame our past leaders. There was no reason that this should have happened.
Last year, they lost 800 — we as a nation, over the years — but the latest number is $817 billion on trade. That's ridiculous, and it's unacceptable. And everybody was told that. So I don't blame them. I blame our leaders. In fact, I congratulate the leaders of other countries for so crazily being able to make these trade deals that were so good for their country and so bad for the United States. But those days are over.
In just a few minutes, I'll be leaving for Singapore. I'll be on a mission of peace, and we will carry in, really — in my heart, we're going to be carrying the hearts of millions of people, people from all over the world. We have to get denuclearization. We have to get something going.
We really think that North Korea will be a tremendous place in a very short period of time. And we appreciate everything that's going on. We appreciate the working together with North Korea. They're really working very well with us. So, I say, so far, so good. We're going to have to see what happens. And we're going to know very soon.
So I'll be leaving — as soon as we're finished with this conference, I'll be leaving. And I very much look forward to it. I think it's very important for North Korea and South Korea and Japan — and the world and the United States. It's a great thing. And we'll see what happens.
Okay. Any questions? Yes, yes.
Q: Mr. President, you are about to embark on what may be the most important meeting you've ever had in your life. What's in your gut? Steel nerves or butterflies? Can you describe how you feel?
TRUMP: Well, there's always everything. It's really, you know, this has probably rarely been done. It's unknown territory, in the truest sense. But I really feel confident. I feel that Kim Jong Un wants to do something great for his people, and he has that opportunity. And he won't have that opportunity again. It's never going to be there again.
So I really believe that he's going to do something very positive for his people, for himself, his family. He's got an opportunity, the likes of which I think almost — if you look into history, very few people have ever had. He can take that nation, with those great people, and truly make it great. So it's a one-time — it's a one-time shot. And I think it's going to work out very well. That's why I feel positive — because it makes so much sense.
And we will watch over, and we'll protect, and we'll do a lot of things. I can say that South Korea, Japan, China — many countries want to see it happen. And they'll help. They'll all help. So there's a great — there's really — this is a great time. This has not happened in all of the years that they've been separated by a very artificial boundary. This is a great opportunity for peace, and lasting peace and prosperity.
Q: Mr. President, did you raise bringing Russia back into the G-7 during your meetings? And when have you last spoken to Vladimir Putin? Do you expect to meet him in Vienna this summer?
TRUMP: Yeah, I have not spoken to Vladimir Putin in quite a while. It has been discussed. We didn't do votes or anything, but it has been discussed. Some people like the idea of bringing Russia back in. This used to be the G-8, not the G-7. And something happened a while ago, where Russia is no longer in.
I think it would be an asset to have Russia back in. I think it would be good for the world. I think it would be good for Russia. I think it would be good for the United States. I think it would be good for all of the countries of the current G-7. I think the G-8 would be better. I think having Russia back in would be a positive thing. We're looking for peace in the world. We're not looking to play games.
Okay. Question? Yes.
Q: Mr. President, you said that this was a positive meeting but, from the outside, it seemed quite contentious. Did you get any indication from your interlocutors that they were going to make any concessions to you? And I believe that you raised the idea of a tariff-free G-7. Is that …
TRUMP: I did. Oh, I did. That's the way it should be. No tariffs, no barriers. That's the way it should be.
Q: How did it go down?
TRUMP: And no subsidies. I even said no tariffs. In other words, let's say Canada, where we have tremendous tariffs; the United States pays tremendous tariffs on dairy. As an example: 270 percent. Nobody knows that. We pay nothing. We don't want to pay anything. Why should we pay?
We have to — because ultimately, that's what you want. You want a tariff-free, you want no barriers, and you want no subsidies, because you have some cases where countries are subsidizing industries, and that's not fair. So you go tariff-free, you go barrier-free, you go subsidy-free.
That's the way you learned at the Wharton School of Finance. I mean, that would be the ultimate thing. Now, whether or not that works — but I did suggest it, and people were, I guess, they got to go back to the drawing and check it out, right?
But we can't have, an example, where we're paying — the United States is paying 270 percent. Just can't have it. And when they send things into us, you don't have that. I will say, it was not contentious. What was strong was the language that this cannot go on. But the relationships are very good, whether it be President Macron or with Justin. We had — Justin did a really good job. I think the relationships were outstanding.
But because of the fact that the United States leaders of the past didn't do a good job on trade — and, again, I'm not blaming countries; I'm blaming our people that represented our past. It's got to change. It's going to change. I mean, it's not a question of, “I hope it changes.” It's going to change, a hundred percent.
And tariffs are going to come way down because people cannot continue to do that. We're like the piggy bank that everybody is robbing. And that ends. In fact, Larry Kudlow is a great expert on this, and he's a total free trader. But even Larry has seen the ravages of what they've done with their tariffs. Would you like to say something, Larry, very quickly? It might be interesting.
KUDLOW: One interesting point, in terms of the G-7 group meeting: I don't know if they were surprised with President Trump's free-trade proclamation, but they certainly listened to it, and we had lengthy discussions about that. As the president said, reduce these barriers. In fact, go to zero. Zero tariffs. Zero non-tariff barriers. Zero subsidies.
And, along the way, we're going to have to clean up the international trading system, about which there was virtual consensus of agreement on that. And that will be a target. And these are the best ways to promote economic growth, and we'll all be better at it, and we'll all be stronger at it. So I, myself, was particularly gratified to hear my president talk about free trade. Thank you, sir.
TRUMP: Thank you. And it's very unfair to our farmers. Our farmers are, essentially — whether it's through a barrier, non-monetary barrier, or whether it's through very high tariffs that make it impossible — and this is all over the world. This isn't just G-7.
I mean, we have India, where some of the tariffs are 100 percent. A hundred percent. And we charge nothing. We can't do that. And so we are talking to many countries. We're talking to all countries. And it's going to stop. Or we'll stop trading with them. And that's a very profitable answer, if we have to do it.
Q: Thank you, Mr. President. Another question on trade: You just said that you think that the tariffs are actually going to come down, but it does appear that these various countries are moving forward with retaliatory tariffs on the U.S. Did you get any concessions or any agreements with any of these countries not to move forward with those tariffs? And are you willing to not move forward with …
TRUMP: Well, if they retaliate, they're making a mistake. Because, you see, we have a tremendous trade imbalance. So when we try and bring our piece up a little bit so that it's not so bad, and then they go up, right, the difference is they do so much more business with us than we do with them that we can't lose that. You understand. We can't lose it.
And, as an example, with one country we have $375 billion in trade deficits. We can't lose. You could make the case that they lost years ago. But when you're down $375 billion, you can't lose. And we have to bring them up. So there's very bad spirit.
When we have a big trade imbalance and we want to bring it up to balance — just balance — and they keep raising it so that you never catch, that's not a good thing to do. And we have very, very strong measures that take care of that because we do so much. The numbers are so astronomically against them, in terms of anything, as per your question. We win that war a thousand times out of a thousand.
Yes. Yes, sir.
Q: Are you close to a deal on NAFTA? Your press secretary said …
TRUMP: So two things can happen on NAFTA: We'll either leave it the way it is, as a threesome deal with Canada and with the United States and Mexico, and change it very substantially; we're talking about very big changes. Or we're going to make a deal directly with Canada and directly with Mexico. Both of those things could happen.
If a deal isn't made, that would be a very bad thing for Canada, and it would be a very bad thing for Mexico. For the United States, frankly, it would be a good thing. But I'm not looking to do that. I'm not looking to play that game. So we're either going to have NAFTA in a better-negotiated form or we're going to have two deals.
Q: And does it have to have a sunset clause in it?
TRUMP: It will have a sunset. You have the two sunsets. I mean, you have an ISDS provision and a sunset provision. They've been very heavily negotiated. You have two sunsets, two concepts of sunset. We're pretty close on the sunset provision. Okay?
Q: Like five years or ...
TRUMP: Well, we have one that's five years; you know it very well. You've studied this very well. Congratulations. That's right. You have one group that likes to have five years and then a renegotiation at the end of five years. And you have another group that wants longer because of the investments. But we're pretty close.
Q: Mr. President, David Herszenhorn with Politico Europe. Just to come back to Russia for a second: Something that happened that got them kicked out of the G-8 was the invasion and annexation of Crimea. Do you think that Crimea should be recognized as Russian …
TRUMP: Well, you know, you have to ask President Obama, because he was the one that let Crimea get away. That was during his administration. And he was the one that let Russia go and spend a lot of money on Crimea, because they've spent a lot of money on rebuilding it. I guess they have their submarine port there and such.
But Crimea was let go during the Obama administration. And, you know, Obama can say all he wants, but he allowed Russia to take Crimea. I may have had a much different attitude. So you'd really have to ask that question to President Obama, you know, why did he do that? Why did he do that? But with that being said, it's been done a long time.
Q: But you would allow Russia back into the G-8 with Crimea still …
TRUMP: I would rather see Russia in the G-8 as opposed to the G-7. I would say that the G-8 is a more meaningful group than the G-7, absolutely.
Yes. Yes, ma'am.
Q: How persuasive did you find the Europeans and Canadians when they made the case to you that you shouldn't use national security as a justification for tariffs?
TRUMP: They virtually didn't even make that case. I mean, my case is the fact that it is national security. It's our balance sheet; it's our strength. It's absolutely national security. And, you know, if you look at our — just take a look at our balance sheet. We're going to have a very strong balance sheet very soon because of what we're doing.
We have the strongest economy that we've ever had in the United States — in the history of the United States. We have the best unemployment numbers. Black unemployment, the lowest in history. Hispanic unemployment, the lowest in history.
I don't mean the lowest in the last 10 years or 20 years. The lowest in the history of this country. Black unemployment is doing the best it's ever done. Hispanic doing the best. Women are now up to 21 years. Soon it's going to be the best ever in its history — in the country's history.
We have to have deals that are fair, and we have to have deals that are economic. Otherwise, that does, in fact, affect our military. Okay?
Q: How do you make that case for autos?
TRUMP: Oh, it's very easy. It's economic. It's the balance sheet. To have a great military, you need a great balance sheet.
Yes, sir. Go ahead.
Q: As you were heading into these G-7 talks, there was a sense that America's closest allies were frustrated with you and angry with you, and that you were angry with them and that you were leaving here early to go meet for more friendlier talks with Kim Jong Un in Singapore. And I'm wondering if you …
TRUMP: It's well put, I think.
Q: … if you view it the same way. And do you view the U.S. alliance system, shifting under your presidency, away …
TRUMP: Who are you with, out of curiosity?
TRUMP: I figured. Fake News CNN. The worst. But I could tell by the question. I had no idea you were CNN. After the question, I was just curious as to who you were with. You were CNN.
I would say that the level of relationship is a 10. We have a great relationship, Angela and Emmanuel and Justin. I would say the relationship is a 10.
And I don't blame them. I blame, as I said, I blame our past leaders for allowing this to happen. There was no reason this should happen. There's no reason that we should have big trade deficits with virtually every country in the world.
I'm going long beyond the G-7. There's no reason for this. It's the fault of the people that preceded me. And I'm not just saying President Obama. I'm going back a long way. You can go back 50 years, frankly. It just got worse and worse and worse.
You know, we used to be a nation that was unbelievably cash-flow-oriented. Had no debt of any consequence, and that built the highway system. We built the interstate system out of — virtually out of cash flow. And it was a lot different.
No, we have a very good relationship, and I don't blame these people, but I will blame them if they don't act smart and do what they have to do because they have no choice. I'll be honest with you, they have no choice. They're either going to make the trades fair because our farmers have been hurt. You look at our farmers. For 15 years, the graph is going just like this: down. Our farmers have been hurt, our workers have been hurt. Our companies have moved out and moved to Mexico and other countries, including Canada.
Now, we are going to fix that situation. And if it's not fixed, we're not going to deal with these countries. But the relationship that I've had is great. So you can tell that to your fake friends at CNN. The relationship that I've had with the people, the leaders of these countries, has been — I would, really, rate it, on a scale of 0 to 10, I would rate it a 10.
That doesn't mean I agree with what they're doing. And they know very well that I don't. So we're negotiating very hard, tariffs and barriers. As an example, the European Union is brutal to the United States. They don't — and they understand that. They know it. When I'm telling them, they're smiling at me. You know, it's like the jig is up. It's like the jig is up. They're not trying to — there's nothing they can say. They can't believe they got away with it.
Canada can't believe it got away with it. Mexico: We have $100 billion trade deficit with Mexico, and that doesn't include all the drugs that are pouring in because we have no wall. But we are. We started building the wall, as you know: $1.6 billion, and we're going to keep that going.
But a lot of these countries actually smile at me when I'm talking. And the smile is, “We couldn't believe we got away with it.” That's the smile. So it's going to change. It's going to change. They have no choice. If it's not going to change, we're not going to trade with them.
Okay, how about a couple of more? Go ahead, in the back.
Q: Thanks, Mr. President. Eliana Johnson with Politico.
TRUMP: Yes. Hi.
Q: Going into these talks with Kim Jong Un, do you have a clear objective of what you want to get out of them?
TRUMP: I have a clear objective. But I have to say, Eliana, that it's going to be something that will always be spur of the moment. You don't know. You know, this has not been done before at this level. This is a leader who really is an unknown personality. People don't know much about him. I think that he's going to surprise, on the upside, very much on the upside. We'll see.
But never been done. Never been tested. Many people, world leaders — I'm talking about world leaders that have been right next to him have never met him.
So we're going in with a very positive spirit. I think very well prepared. I think — and, by the way, we have worked very well with their people. They have many people right now in Shanghai; our people have been — in Singapore. Our people have been working very, very well with the representatives of North Korea.
So we're going in with a very positive attitude, and I think we're going to come out fine. But I've said it many times: Who knows? Who knows? May not. May not work out. It's a good chance it won't work out. There's probably an even better chance that it will take a period of time. It will be a process.
Q: Is there a particular outcome that you would look for from this initial talk to judge whether you think things are going well?
TRUMP: Well, I think the minimum would be relationship. You'd start, at least, a dialogue. Because, you know, as a deal person, I've done very well with deals. What you want to do is start that. Now, I'd like to accomplish more than that. But, at a minimum, I do believe, at least we'll have met each other. We will have seen each other. Hopefully we will have liked each other, and we'll start that process.
So I would say that would be the minimal. And the maximum, I think you know the answer to that. But I think that will take a little bit of time.
Q: How long do you think that it will take you to figure out whether he's serious about denuclearization?
TRUMP: That's a good question. How long will it take? I think within the first minute I'll know.
TRUMP: Just my touch, my feel. That's what I do. How long will it take to figure out whether or not they're serious? I said maybe in the first minute. You know, the way — they say that you know if you're going to like somebody in the first five seconds. You ever hear that one? Well, I think that very quickly I'll know whether or not something good is going to happen.
I also think I'll know whether or not it will happen fast. It may not. But I think I'll know pretty quickly whether or not, in my opinion, something positive will happen. And if I think it won't happen, I'm not going to waste my time. I don't want to waste his time.
Q: Are you concerned about all that just, like, giving Kim the meeting, that he's getting a win as a …
TRUMP: No, no, no, no. That's only — only the fake news says that. You know, this — look, we just got three hostages back. We paid nothing. They came back. They're happily ensconced in their homes with their families. They're the happiest people in the world right now.
We have gotten — you know, we haven't done anything. Everyone said, you know, the haters, they say, “Oh, you're giving him a meeting.” Give me a break, okay? There's nothing. I think if I didn't do this, it would be — and it's never been done before, you know. It's never been done before. And, obviously, what has been done before hasn't worked.
And this is something — I can't stress this strong enough: You know, I talked about tariffs that previous people — and I'm not looking to criticize people that were preceding me — but on tariffs, it should have never happened. Well, the same thing on North Korea. We shouldn't be in this position. We shouldn't be in this position on tariffs. We were hundreds of billions of dollars down to other countries that, frankly, were never even negotiated with. They never even got spoken to.
I asked a top person in China, “How did it get so bad?” He looked at me, he said, “Nobody ever talked to us.” They were missing in action, our leaders.
Well, a very similar thing, if you think about it, took place with North Korea. This should not be done now. This should have been done five years ago and 10 years ago and 25 years ago. It shouldn't be done now.
Q: Have you spoken to Kim at all in the last …
TRUMP: I can't comment on that.
Okay, one more question.
Q: A follow-up on North Korea. Will you raise the gulags with Kim Jong Un and …
TRUMP: We're going to raise every issue.
Q: … and the [inaudible] and kidnappings?
TRUMP: Every issue is going to be raised.
Q: Mr. President, we're sitting here and, kind of, you've attacked the U.S. press back home, but you've also done it on foreign soil. I guess I want — I'd like to ask you why you do that. Do you think …
TRUMP: Because the U.S. press is very dishonest, much of it. Not all of it. Oh, I have some folks in your profession that are with the U.S., in the U.S. — citizens, proud citizens; they're reporters. These are some of the most outstanding people I know. But there are many people in the press that are unbelievably dishonest. They don't cover stories the way they're supposed to be. They don't even report them, in many cases, if they're positive.
So there's tremendous — you know, I came up with the term “fake news.” It's a lot of fake news. But at the same time, I have great respect for many people in the press.
Thank you all very much. I appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you.