Sat | Aug 19, 2017

Trump says US won't leave NAFTA - for now

Published:Friday | April 28, 2017 | 4:00 AM
In this June 29, 2016 file photo, Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomes Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to the North American Leaders' Summit in Ottawa.

President Donald Trump said he has told the leaders of Mexico and Canada that he will not pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) at this time, but could still withdraw if he concludes a renegotiated pact is not "a fair deal for all".

Trump tweeted early Thursday that he has agreed to remain a partner in the much-discussed trade agreement in calls he received from Mexican President Enrique PeÒa Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The White House released a statement late Wednesday saying only that Trump had assured the two leaders in phone conversations that the US would not withdraw from NAFTA at this time.

In his Twitter post, Trump called America's relationships with the two hemispheric neighbours "very good" and said the prospects of a renegotiated deal are "very possible." But he also said that his consent to remaining in NAFTA for now is "subject to the fact that if we do not reach a fair deal for all, we will then terminate NAFTA".

The White House statement said, "President 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 statement came hours after administration officials said Trump was considering a draft executive order to withdraw the US from the deal though administration officials cautioned it was just one of a number of options being discussed by the president and his staff.

Some saw the threat as posturing by Trump to gain leverage over Mexico and Canada as he tries to negotiate changes to the deal. Trump railed against the decades-old trade deal during his campaign, describing it as a "disaster."

Senior White House officials had spent recent days discussing steps that could be taken to start the process of renegotiating or withdrawing from NAFTA before the end of Trump's first 100 days in office, according to a person familiar with the president's thinking. But the person, along with an administration official, said a number of options remained on the table, and stressed discussions are ongoing about the best way to proceed.

Both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss internal deliberations.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer declined to comment on the order, which was first reported by Politico. "The president has made addressing the problems of NAFTA - a priority throughout the campaign - and once the president makes a decision about how he wants to address that, we'll let you know," he said.

The administration appeared divided on Wednesday over how and when to proceed, as officials balanced a new-found cautiousness with the desire to rack up accomplishments before Trump's 100th day on the job.

- AP