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Trump Backs Down on NAFTA Withdrawal, For Now

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On Wednesday President Trump looked set to pull the United States from NAFTA, but by Thursday he’d reverted back to his initial plan to renegotiate it.

Many said the talk about removing the U.S. from the now 23-year-old trade deal with Canada and Mexico was a tactic to bring the two countries to the table sooner and put the U.S. in position to negotiate better terms.

Shortly after news surfaced that the White House was considering a draft executive order to withdraw the U.S. from NAFTA, Trump said he received calls from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, according to Reuters.

“They asked me to renegotiate. I will,” Reuters reported Trump as saying. “And I think we’ll be successful in the renegotiation, which frankly would be good because it would be simpler [than killing NAFTA].”

Trump has made clear since his days on the campaign trail his belief that NAFTA is the “worst trade deal” ever, and has promised repeatedly to untangle the U.S. from the deal if he couldn’t negotiate a better version.

“Now, if I’m unable to make a fair deal…for the United States, meaning a fair deal for our workers and our companies, I will terminate NAFTA. But we’re going to give renegotiation a good strong show,” Reuters report the president as saying.

Comments from leaders in Canada and Mexico on the situation appear positive for now.

Referencing the call he had with Trump after the news about the U.S. mulling a withdrawal from NAFTA, Trudeau said speaking at a news conference that Trump was considering canceling the trade deal and that he told the U.S. president “a disruption like cancelling NAFTA, even if it theoretically eventually might lead to better outcomes, would cause a lot of short- and medium-term pain.”

From there, acknowledging that neither side wants that, Trudeau said he and Trump agreed to work on ways to improve NAFTA.

In Mexico, following a call reportedly initiated by President Nieto, Mexican foreign minister Luis Videgaray said Trump wants to see the renegotiation talks accelerated.

“I believe that all the conditions to reach a good negotiation exist, that will suit Mexico…and that is also good for the region, for both Canada and the United States,” Reuters reported Videgaray as saying.

Trump said Thursday the renegotiation would begin “soon” and then added, in fact, “It’s actually starting today.”

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