President Donald Trump put neighboring Canada and Mexico on notice: he’s determined to wring out more favorable terms from Nafta. Now comes the hard part of reworking a trade deal that’s framed relations for more than two decades.
Bloomberg News reported that Trump’s plan to re-negotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement was received in Mexico with a call to protect tariff-free trading, while in Canada officials seemed more worried about avoiding unintentional damage to the economy as the U.S. targets Mexico.
The U.S. president has broad powers to implement trade policies. While Trump has given few details about exactly what he’s seeking from a Nafta re-think, it could be a long and potentially messy process.
Trump, who was sworn in Friday Jan. 20, has already spoken to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto about his objective to re-negotiate Nafta, which he’s routinely blamed for the loss of U.S. jobs and called “the worst trade deal in the history of this country.”
White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Monday said Trump plans further talks about modifying Nafta at meetings with the two leaders in the next 30 days. How discussions unfold will determine the way forward, including if piecemeal reforms are possible or it will require starting over, Spicer told reporters in Washington.
If Trudeau and Pena Nieto “come in and express a willingness to do that, you could negotiate it within the current parameters, and update it through the existing structure,” Spicer said. “If they don’t, and he decides to pull out, then we would have to go back to the drawing table in the future.”
Canada’s strategy, at this stage, seems to be to get out of the way. Canadian officials are holding out hope they’re not Trump’s target, and will do everything they can to make sure they don’t get sideswiped if the president goes after Mexico.
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