WASHINGTON (CN) – Hours after administration officials suggested the White House was poised to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement, President Donald Trump called the leaders of Canada and Mexico to assure then he would not back out of the deal unilaterally, but would seek to renegotiate its terms.
In a statement, the White House said the president spoke with both President Peña Nieto of Mexico and Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada, and that the conversations “were pleasant and productive.”
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, the White House said.
The statement closed by quoting the president saying, “it is my privilege to bring NAFTA up to date through renegotiation. 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.”
On Wednesday, administration officials, speaking on background, told The New York Times and other media outlets that a draft order was in the works to pull the U.S. out of the trade agreement.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer declined to comment on those reports on Wednesday, but did remind reporters assembled in the White House briefing room that the president did make addressing NAFTA’s shortcomings a priority during his campaign. Once a decision was made, it would be addressed, he said.
If it did eventually come to pass, a withdrawal from NAFTA would not occur overnight. Six months notice must be given prior to removal and Congress is also expected to weigh in with checks and balances on the executive branch’s authority to raise import tariffs from Mexico or Canada.
Trump announced earlier this week that he would impose costly tariffs on Canadian lumber imports. In recent days, he has also been critical of the Canadian dairy industry’s impact on the U.S.’s own dairy market.
Just last week President Trump told AP reporters during an interview that he was “very upset with NAFTA.”
“I think NAFTA has been a catastrophic trade deal for the United States, trading agreement for the United States. It hurts us with Canada and it hurts us with Mexico,” Trump said.
Both the Mexican and Canadian governments issued statements confirming their conversation with Trump late Wednesday night.
“The leaders agreed on the convenience of maintaining the North American Free Trade Agreement and working together with Canada to carry out a successful renegotiation for the benefit of all three countries,” the Mexican government said in a statement.
The office of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also said it would continue it looked forward to continuing its dialogue with the U.S. and reinforced the importance of stability and job growth in trade relations.