Washington, April 27 (IANS): US President Donald Trump has told the leaders of Canada and Mexico that he was not immediately planning to end the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), an accord which he railed against as a presidential candidate, the White House said.
Trump, in phone calls with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Wednesday, agreed to proceed swiftly to enable the renegotiation of the Nafta deal to the benefit of all three countries.
The White House said the phone conversations were “pleasant and productive”.
“It is my privilege to bring Nafta up to date through renegotiation,” Trump said in a written statement that accompanied the readout of his phone calls.
“It is an honour 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,” he said.
As he approaches his 100th day in office, Trump and his advisers are hurriedly working to check off promises made during the campaign, one of which was to renegotiate or withdraw from Nafta, CNN reported.
Trump has already removed the US from another massive trade pact, the Trans Pacific Partnership, which was negotiated under former President Barack Obama.
Trump’s decision to remain in Nafta came the same day a senior administration official revealed the White House was considering an executive order to withdraw from the trade accord.
Many Republicans, including Senator John McCain, had cautioned Trump not to pull out from Nafta.
“It will devastate the economy in my state,” McCain said on Wednesday. “I hope he doesn’t do that.”
“Scrapping Nafta would be a disastrously bad idea. It would hurt American families at the checkout, and it would cripple American producers in the field and the office,” said Senator Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican.
During his run for office last year, Trump made his disdain for Nafta a central component of a populist message designed to engender support among working class Americans, said the report.
He consistently cast the agreement — which was negotiated by former President Bill Clinton, the husband of Trump’s presidential opponent Hillary Clinton — as a raw deal for the middle class.
Last week, Trump derided Nafta during remarks in Wisconsin meant to highlight American manufacturing.
“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 Nata once and for all,” Trump said.