White House readies order to quit NAFTA: administration official

Patrice Gainsbourg
Mai 8, 2017

President Donald Trump told the leaders of Canada and Mexico Wednesday he was not immediately planning to end the North American Free Trade Agreement, a pact which he railed against as a candidate and as recently as last week declared was harmful to USA workers.

Videgaray said the Mexican president told Trump that he was aware of internal us politics, but that signing an order for the U.S.to quit NAFTA "would naturally have very negative consequences in Mexico, that for Mexico it would be practically impossible to negotiate under such conditions".

He still left open the possibility of withdrawing from the pact, however, if talks fail.

"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", a White House statement said.

Trump could withdraw from NAFTA - but he would have to give six months' notice.

While most of his fire has been directed at Mexico, Trump abruptly shifted course this week to pick fights with Ottawa over softwood lumber and dairy products.

Trump said if he had chose to sign an order within days announcing an intent to withdraw from NAFTA, it would have represented a "pretty big, you know, shock to the system". The country's foreign minister said on Tuesday that Mexico would walk away from the negotiating table rather than accept a bad deal.

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Behind the scenes, politicians, diplomats and business groups have put pressure on Washington not to scrap the accord that created one of the world's largest trading blocs.

"Rather than terminating NAFTA, which would be a pretty big shock to the system, we will renegotiate", Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Thursday. "If we can't make a fair deal for our companies and our workers, we will terminate NAFTA".

Mexico had expected to start NAFTA renegotiations in August but the possible executive order could add urgency to the timeline. "It's actually starting today".

Trudeau says the two agreed instead they could sit down and work on ways to make the deal better, a renegotiation process similar to what's been done in the past.

"I was glad to see the president saying that he believes we can get a great deal. What many Americans don't always fully appreciate is, Canada is the single biggest customer of the United States". "As the US reviews the value of NAFTA, it's essential that our trade negotiators focus on preserving dairy trade with Mexico and other key markets, while challenging barriers such as Canada's systematic abuse of trade rules and tools", said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF. "We remain supportive of efforts to modernize NAFTA and further expand access for USA soy in Mexico and Canada, and we look forward to working with the administration to realize these goals".

"We will no longer surrender this country or its people to the false song of globalism", Trump said, according to The Hill.

"I'm happy to engage with the president regularly", Trudeau said Thursday. Relative calm returned on Thursday after Trump's comments, and the Mexican peso strengthened 0.86 percent against the USA dollar, while the Canadian dollar was flat versus the greenback. (Neither timber, nor milk are covered under NAFTA). "The order would give Trump a credible alternative", the daily reported.

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