President Donald Trump on Thursday said he decided to back off beginning the process of withdrawing the US from the North American Free Trade Agreement after speaking Wednesday with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.
The conversations with the leaders came after it was reported that Peter Navarro, the head of the National Trade Council, and White House chief strategist Steve Bannon had drafted a letter that would have alerted Canada and Mexico of the US’s intent to withdraw from the trade agreement.
“Well, I was going to terminate NAFTA as of two or three days from now,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Thursday.
“The president of Mexico, who I have a very good relationship, called me. And also, the prime minister of Canada, who I have a very good relationship, and I like both of these gentlemen very much. They called me. They said, ‘Rather than terminating NAFTA, could you please renegotiate?’ I like them very much, I respect their countries very much. The relationship is very special. And I said, ‘I will hold on the termination, let’s see if we can make it a fair deal.'”
Trump added that NAFTA, which he lambasted along the campaign trail, “has been a horrible deal for the” US. But NAFTA “has been very good for Canada,” he said. “It’s been very good for Mexico.”
“If you check my campaign, any of my speeches, I said I’ll either renegotiate or I’ll terminate,” Trump said. “So, they asked me to renegotiate. I will. And I think we’ll be successful in the renegotiaton, which frankly would be good because it will be simpler. But we have to make a deal that is good for the United States, they understand that.”
The US president admitted that terminating the free-trade agreement, struck in the early 1990s, would be a “pretty big, you know, shock to the system.”
“Now, if I’m unable to make a fair deal, if I’m unable to make a fair deal for the United States, meaning a fair deal for our workers and our companies, I will terminate NAFTA,” he added. “But we’re going to give renegotiation a good, strong shot.”
In order to begin renegotiation talks, the White House must give Congress 90 days notice. But that notice can’t be given until the administration meets with certain congressional committees. Additionally, Trump’s nominee for United States Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, has yet to be confirmed, which has further delayed the launch of the process.
A White House readout of Trump’s conversations said Trump spoke with both leaders and that the talks were “pleasant and productive.” The White House said all three agreed to “proceed swiftly” on renegotiation.
“It is my privilege to bring NAFTA up to date through renegotiation,” Trump said in the readout. “It is an honour to deal with both President Peña Nieto and Prime Minister Trudeau, and I believe that the end result will make all three countries stronger and better.”
The Canadian readout of the call was more subdued, with its government saying Trudeau spoke with Trump on NAFTA, “with the prime minister reinforcing the importance of stability and job growth in our trade relations.”
Watch Trump’s comments:
Trump: I “was going to terminate NAFTA as of 2 or 3 days from now” but Trudeau/Peña Nieto asked “could you please renegotiate” & I like them pic.twitter.com/N447uS2IbV
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) April 27, 2017
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