President Donald Trump has signaled that he would like to fast-track talks with both Canada and Mexico to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trump’s remarks arrived a day after the Mexican government announced that the talks would begin in May.
On Feb. 2, Trump repeated his campaign assertion that NAFTA has hurt U.S. manufacturing and expressed a desire to accelerate the timetable for negotiating the trade deal.
“I have very serious concerns about NAFTA,” Trump said, according to Business Insider. “NAFTA’s been a catastrophe for our country.”
Trump suggested that one of the changes he would like to make to the trade deal would be to title it NAFFTA, with the extra F meaning “free and fair trade.”
“So all of the statutory guidelines we’re adhering to, I would like to speed it up if possible,” the president added.
Trump said that his nominee for commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, would head the negotiations.
On Jan. 18, Ross stated during his confirmation hearing before Congress that renegotiating NAFTA would be a top priority for the Trump administration.
“NAFTA is logically the first thing for us to deal with,” Ross said, according to Reuters. “We ought to solidify relationships in the best way we can in our territory before we go off to other jurisdictions.”
Trump has previously signaled that he wants his administration to renegotiate NAFTA or to walk away from the trade deal altogether if he does not find the terms to his satisfaction.
On Feb. 1, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto announced during a press conference that he was prepared to begin renegotiating NAFTA within 90 days. During the interim, his administration would consult with Mexican businesses to determine what they would want out of a new agreement, CNN Money reports.
“At the end of the 90 days, the negotiation will properly open to update our free trade agreement,” Pena Nieto said.
On the campaign trail, Trump had blasted NAFTA for its impact on U.S. manufacturing and employment opportunities, although independent economists have disputed whether or not the trade deal is to blame, attributing the decline in manufacturing jobs to automation technology.
Trump’s stance on NAFTA is also at odds with many Republican lawmakers, who have cautioned the president against dramatically reworking the trade deal or withdrawing from it altogether.
On Jan. 26, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona expressed concern over the Trump administration’s efforts to renegotiate NAFTA.
“Any effort to restrict or impose new barriers on our ability to trade with Mexico or Canada could jeopardize the future of this trade agreement and have serious consequences for Arizona and the country,” McCain said, according to The Hill.
Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas told CNN that withdrawing from NAFTA would not benefit the U.S. economically.
“I don’t see any benefit in trying to crawl back into our shell as a country,” Cornyn said.
Sources: Business Insider, CNN, CNN Money, The Hill, Reuters via Fox Business / Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr