Trump: I totally bluffed my way to the right answer during a trade conversation with Justin Trudeau

We’re in a weird place internationally now in which everyone understands simultaneously that (1) Trump’s the only person in his administration who speaks with any real authority on foreign policy (right, Rex?), (2) Trump sometimes doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and (3) to the extent that he does know, he could change his mind about his policy course at any moment. Good luck negotiating with the U.S. under those circumstances.

This was part of a longer rant at a fundraiser about how the U.S. has a trade-deficit problem with the entire world, which is why he could safely assume without knowing for a fact that we’re also running a deficit with Canada. All we do is give, give, give to these foreign countries, getting nothing in return except, ah, useful goods and services.

“Trudeau came to see me. He’s a good guy, Justin. He said, ‘No, no, we have no trade deficit with you, we have none. Donald, please,’ ” Trump said, mimicking Trudeau, according to audio of the private event in Missouri obtained by The Washington Post. “Nice guy, good-looking guy, comes in — ‘Donald, we have no trade deficit.’ He’s very proud because everybody else, you know, we’re getting killed.

“… So, he’s proud. I said, ‘Wrong, Justin, you do.’ I didn’t even know. … I had no idea. I just said, ‘You’re wrong.’ You know why? Because we’re so stupid. … And I thought they were smart. I said, ‘You’re wrong, Justin.’ He said, ‘Nope, we have no trade deficit.’ I said, ‘Well, in that case, I feel differently,’ I said, ‘but I don’t believe it.’ I sent one of our guys out, his guy, my guy, they went out, I said, ‘Check, because I can’t believe it.’

‘Well, sir, you’re actually right. We have no deficit, but that doesn’t include energy and timber. … And when you do, we lose $17 billion a year.’ It’s incredible.”

Is that true, that we “lose” $17 billion a year to Canada? It is, just like you “lose” every time you go to the grocery store and hand over cash for food. But if you look more closely at the numbers, you’ll see that Trump is cherry-picking: We “lose” only if you’re comparing exports and imports of goods. If you look at the total trade balance between U.S. and Canada, which includes goods and services, we “win.” In 2016, our trade deficit with Canada in terms of goods was $12.1 billion but our trade surplus in terms of services was $24.6 billion, with exports of $54.2 billion versus imports of $26.9 billion. Even by Trump’s own strange metric of trade “winners” and “losers,” America comes out ahead overall in the relationship by about $12.5 billion.

But even if it was Canada that ended up with the surplus, the volume of trade between the two countries is so enormous that it’d be bananas to risk the relationship over a rounding error like $12.5 billion. Total trade between the U.S. and Canada in 2016 was $627.8 billion, with exports supporting more than a million American jobs. Last year, the $282 billion in goods that the U.S. sent north across the border was the largest amount of exports to any single nation on Earth. Even using Trump’s own math, the trade deficit in goods is a measly three percent of total U.S./Canada trade, which probably explains why Trudeau was insisting “we have no trade deficit.” Effectively, we don’t. And as I say, when you include services, there’s *really* no deficit. It’s a surplus for the U.S.

One more quote from the fundraiser. He’s talking here about regulations Japan uses to keep its markets closed to American-made cars:

It’s called the bowling ball test; do you know what that is? That’s where they take a bowling ball from 20 feet up in the air and they drop it on the hood of the car,” Trump said of Japan. “And if the hood dents, then the car doesn’t qualify. Well, guess what, the roof dented a little bit, and they said, nope, this car doesn’t qualify. It’s horrible, the way we’re treated. It’s horrible.” It was unclear what he was talking about.

What *is* he talking about? This story can’t have come from nowhere. But WaPo tried to run it down and came up empty, even reviewing 80s-era movies like “Gung Ho” about Japan horning in on U.S. manufacturing to see if there were any scenes in there involving bowling balls that might have lodged in POTUS’s brain. No dice. Does anyone know what this is a reference to? Political media on Twitter couldn’t figure it out last night. It reeks of something he heard Seb Gorka or David Clarke say during an especially lively “Fox & Friends” segment and instantly assimilated into his presidential messaging, but I’d like to think there’s a more official source for this claim. Is there?