NAFTA: Trump, corporate leaders at odds over future of trade deal

U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau before meeting about NAFTA. PHOTO:

WASHINGTON and MEXICO CITY — U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday Oct. 11 that he was open to bilateral trade pacts with either Canada or Mexico if a three-way deal cannot be reached to substantially revise the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Meanwhile, U.S. and Mexican corporate chief executives gathered in Mexico City said they would be better off with no NAFTA than be saddled with a “bad agreement.”

As industry braces for the end of a treaty that drives $1 trillion in annual trade, the CEO meeting in Mexico City ran in parallel to talks near Washington aimed at refreshing the 1994 agreement. Mexico, Canada and businesses are united in opposition to a number of radical U.S. proposals they say would damage the North American economy.

U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau before meeting about NAFTA. PHOTO:

Asked by a reporter if he could envision maintaining free trade with Canada if NAFTA talks sour with Mexico, Trump said: “Oh sure, absolutely. It’s possible we won’t be able to reach a deal with one or the other, but in the meantime we’ll make a deal with one.”

Trump added that a “very creative” deal was still possible to benefit all three countries.

Trump’s comments came at a White House meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was in Washington to promote NAFTA’s benefits as a new round of renegotiations began near Washington.

Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo, speaking on Mexican radio, praised Trump’s comments as “very balanced” to include the possibility of a deal with either country and hold out hope for a creative solution.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday accused Trump’s administration of trying to sabotage the talks with “poison pill proposals,” including demands for more favorable treatment for the U.S. side on car production, and a “sunset clause” to force regular negotiations.

Trade experts believe the formal NAFTA negotiations will staff in the face of aggressive U.S. attempts to sharply increase content requirements for autos and auto parts.