President Trump does not plan to cancel the North American Free Trade Agreement and will instead work to renegotiate it with Mexico and Canada, the White House announced Wednesday.
Trump spoke Wednesday with President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada to discuss the agreement, which he called “one of the worst deals ever” during the 2016 presidential campaign. During the call, the White House said, Trump said he would not terminate the agreement “at this time,” and that the three leaders agreed to “swiftly” to move to renegotiate the agreement “to the benefit of all three countries.”
“It is my privilege to bring NAFTA up to date through renegotiation,” Trump said in a statement. “It is an honor 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 announcement comes hours after news reports suggested the White House was considering an executive order to begin the process of extricating the U.S. from the free trade agreement. The White House had set an internal deadline of April 29 to chart a path forward on NAFTA, and considered a range of options to meet Trump’s goals of reinvigorating the U.S. manufacturing base, officials said.
A senior administration official said Wednesday that whether or not the U.S. remains in or renegotiates the agreement, “NAFTA as you know it today is going to change.” But previewing the complexities of the issue, the official added that “NAFTA is not zero sum,” noting that it has benefited key U.S. industries like agriculture, even if it has hurt domestic manufacturers.
The NAFTA announcement comes a day after the Trump Administration imposed tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber used primarily in home construction, in the latest development in a decades-long trade dispute. Trump and Trudeau held a animated call over the tariffs Tuesday, according to the Canadian government. It also comes as Trump continues to face down the Mexican government over his plans to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and to force that country to pay for it. Peña Nieto and his government have repeatedly stated they will not budge on funding the border wall.