Monday 15 July 2019

'I have the measure of Donald Trump' - Leo Varadkar discusses Doonbeg meeting in Dáil

US President Donald Trump with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Reuters
US President Donald Trump with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Reuters
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has insisted he “has the measure of” US president Donald Trump after their meeting in Co Clare earlier this month.

Mr Varadkar said he was not aware of any Government spending at properties owned by the US President and claimed the pair clashed on the balance of trade surpluses between Ireland and America.

He said he also brought Mr Trump to task on remarks he made about the Irish border and Brexit being “very, very good” for Ireland by explaining the peace process to him.

The pair met shortly after Mr Trump landed in Shannon Airport during the US President’s trip to his golf resort in Doonbeg, Co Clare, on June 5.

Mr Varadkar gave the Dáil a brief synopsis of his meeting with Mr Trump after a number of TDs put questions forward on the visit.

Repeatedly referring the US President as “Trump” or “Donald Trump”, Mr Varadkar said the pair discussed Brexit, air quality and trade.

“I think some of the questions are really questions to Donald Trump, or to President Trump rather than me, but I will do my best to answer the questions that I can answer.

“I am not aware of any Government spending in properties owned by Donald Trump or the Trump organisation, either in Ireland or the US.

“I have met President Trump now three times so I think I do have the measure of him, perhaps a little bit more than those who have not.

"I have explained on a number of occasions why EU membership is good for Ireland, why Brexit is bad for they UK, why I think Brexit is bad for Ireland and why I think Brexit is bad for the EU, and also have explained the peace process – a hard border and what that would mean and why we are doing all we can to avoid it.”

Mr Varadkar added he discussed trade with Mr Trump and this led to a disagreement between the pair.

“I didn’t have any private discussions with any of Trump’s delegation, just an exchange of pleasantries but the time and opportunity wasn’t there to have any one-to-one conversations with any of his delegation.

“He counts the merchandise surplus but doesn’t have regard to the services [surplus] and that is very much how he sees things, in terms of physical goods and not services.

"So we had a disagreement as you can imagine on that, with me pointing out that in the modern economy it is more about services than it is about merchandise and that the US has a very significant services surplus over us which more than balance out the merchandise surplus we have over them.

“I also pointed out that measurements are distorted by the fact we have such large US companied here in Ireland.”

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