President Trump told the leaders of Canada and Mexico on Wednesday that the U.S. will renegotiate NAFTA rather than leave the trade agreement altogether, the White House says.
That’s a surprising development given reports earlier in the day that the White House was drafting plans to begin the process of exiting the trade deal, which has been in place since 1994.
“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,” reads a White House summary of Trump’s calls with Mexican President Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“President Trump said, ‘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,” the White House statement says.
Earlier Wednesday, Politico reported that the White House was developing plans for Trump to sign an executive order that would put the U.S. on a path to leaving NAFTA. White House strategist Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro, the head of the White House National Trade Council, drafted the executive order, according to Politico. (RELATED: The White House Is Weighing An Executive Order To Withdraw From NAFTA)
Trump has criticized NAFTA, saying that it harms American businesses and workers.
In a speech in Wisconsin last week, the Republican called the trade agreement a “disaster” for the U.S.
“NAFTA has been very, very bad for our country,” Trump said. “It’s been very, very bad for our companies and for our workers, and we’re going to make some very big changes or we are going to get rid of NAFTA for once and for all. Cannot continue like this, believe me.”