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De Niro in Toronto talking Trump tirade as trade war looms

Last Updated Jun 12, 2018 at 7:00 am EDT

After cursing out U.S. President Donald Trump during an awards show appearance over the weekend, actor Robert De Niro took the opportunity to take another jab at the president for his stance on Canada-U.S trade while in Toronto for a restaurant unveiling on Monday.

“I just want to make a note of apology for the idiotic behaviour of my president,” said De Niro, followed by applause from the crowd. “It’s a disgrace and I apologize to Justin Trudeau and to the other people at the G7”

De Niro’s apology was in response to President Trump’s Twitter tirade that took aim at Canadian industry, trade and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau following the G7 summit. It comes on the heels of De Niro’s Tony Awards speech, which made international headlines on Sunday night.

“I’m going to say one thing: f*** Trump,” De Niro said on the Tony’s stage, to thunderous applause and a standing ovation from the audience. “It’s no longer ‘down with Trump’, it’s ‘f*** Trump.'”

Following his remarks, some CityNews viewers said on Twitter that the actor deserves a key to the city and even Canada. De Niro said he’d be happy to accept.

“That’d be nice — I’ll take it,” he told CityNews reporter Adrian Ghobrial. “The sooner he’s out of office the better for all of us. (Trump is) an idiot. He’s just done something unspeakable … it’s terrible”

De Niro’s remarks come following a tumultuous weekend for U.S.-Canada relations when Trump and Trudeau joined other G7 leaders in Quebec.

In a press conference, Trudeau called U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs unjust and promised retaliatory tariffs. He said the U.S. had moved forward with the tariffs on the basis of “national security,” a position Trudeau called “kind of insulting.”

After Trudeau’s statements, Trump fired back in tweets, calling the Canadian Prime Minister “meek and mild” as well as “very dishonest and weak.”

De Niro is one of many who have thrown their support behind Trudeau, including G7 allies German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. At home, support has crossed the political spectrum. Ontario Premier-designate Doug Ford, who is known to have praised Trump in the past, says he’s standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Trudeau on trade.

Political tension of this scale between Canada and the U.S. has not been seen since perhaps as far back as the 1960s, with the contentious relationship between Prime Minister John Diefenbaker and President John. F. Kennedy.

Former Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. Allan Gotleib said the “special relationship” Canada shared with the U.S. is no more, painting a bleak picture of the trade tiff the two nations are currently embroiled in.

“The advice I would give now to anybody who is in a position of decision-making is to keep cool and don’t react in anger, although it’s understandable,” said Gotleib, who worked with former prime minister Pierre Trudeau.

“Keep cool because what we can see from the president is very unpredictable. The Trump of today is not necessarily the Trump of yesterday or the Trump of tomorrow.”

In the current climate, Gotleib also stressed the importance of the diversification of Canada’s trade relations.

“It’s taken us about 50 years to realize how important diversification is and every political leader in Canada since that time has talked about the need for diversification,” he said.

But he said all that talk has not necessarily resulted in major policy changes, adding that while Canada now conducts trade with China, Mexico and other world powers, on the whole the country has not diversified as much as it needs to.

Gotleib added that 80 per cent of all of Canada’s exports go to the United States, and they’re our top import partner too. So with Canada planning to impose tariffs of its own, the consequences will be felt in your wallet.

Douglas Goold with the Toronto Region Board of Trade said price increases could go beyond the price of vehicles, to the cost of dairy and fresh produce. He added if the dispute drags on, negative consequences are inevitable.

“(The Board)  is very concerned about the latest Trump comments, which I think are relatively unprecedented in diplomatic terms and not helpful to the process,” Goold said.

He said the Board is “broadly supportive” of the NAFTA negotiations that are currently underway and wants to see them come to fruition.

“We want to see at all costs the avoidance of a trade war, and I think the worry is it’s going to get worse not better,” he said.

“We’re really worried about the uncertainty that these trade disputes are leading to, and investors above all like certainty. And I think the longer this goes on, the more the problem will persist.”

Goold added if the trade relations remain unstable, it’s possible fewer tourists will visit from south of the border, which in turn could impact Toronto’s tourism industry.