Washington: US President Donald Trump told the leaders of Mexico and Canada that he would not pull out of the NAFTA treaty for now, but will swiftly begin renegotiating the trilateral deal with them, a White House statement said.
Trump spoke with both President Enrique Pena Nieto of Mexico and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada over phone and decided not to terminate North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the White House said.
NAFTA is an agreement signed by Canada, Mexico and the US to create a trilateral trade bloc in North America.
“It is my privilege to bring NAFTA up to date through renegotiation. It is an honour to deal with both President Pena Nieto and Prime Minister Trudeau, and I believe that the end result will make all three countries stronger and better,” Trump said according to a readout of the call issued by the White House.
“Trump agreed not to terminate NAFTA at this time and the leaders agreed to proceed swiftly, according to their required internal procedures, to enable the renegotiation of the NAFTA deal to the benefit of all three countries,” the White House said.
Trump said he was about to terminate the NAFTA but changed his mind after talking to leaders from Canada and Mexico who urged him to consider renegotiating it.
“I was going to terminate NAFTA as of two or three days from now,” Trump told reporters at a brief media appearance with the Argentinian counterpart Mauricio Marci.
“The president of Mexico, with whom I have a very good relationship, called me, and also the Prime Minister of Canada, with whom I have a very good relationship. I like both of these gentlemen very much. They called me and said, rather than terminating NAFTA, could you please renegotiate?,” he said, giving an insight into the decision making process.
“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. Because NAFTA has been a horrible deal for the US. It’s been very good for Canada, it’s been very good for Mexico, but it’s been horrible for the US,” Trump said.
The announcement comes amid reports that the US is planning to withdraw itself from the trilateral trade bloc.
“They asked me to renegotiate — I will. I think we’ll be successful in the renegotiation, which, frankly, would be good because it would be simpler.
“We have to make a deal that’s fair for the US. They understand that. So I decided rather than terminating NAFTA, which would be a pretty big shock to the system, we will renegotiate,” Trump said and warned that he would terminate the deal if he does not get a fair deal.
“Now, if I’m unable to make a fair deal, if I’m unable to make a fair deal for the US, meaning a fair deal for our workers and our companies, I will terminate NAFTA. But we’re going to give renegotiation a good, strong shot,” Trump added.
A draft executive order was in the final stages of review and could be unveiled within a week or two, two White House officials were quoted by Politico news website.
The New York Times recently quoted an unnamed senior administration official saying that Trump is likely to sign an executive action that would begin the process of withdrawing the US from NAFTA.
“The White House wants Congress to approve those negotiations under legislation that would allow expedited approval of the reworked agreement, but talks between administration officials and congressional Republicans have moved slowly. The order would give Trump a credible alternative,” the daily reported.
During his entire presidential campaign, Trump has been very critical of NAFTA, which came into force in 1994.