WASHINGTON, Feb. 2, 2017 – President Donald Trump said today he wants to see the North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiated quickly, blasting the current trade pact as unfair to U.S. companies and workers.
“I don’t care if it’s a renovation of NAFTA or a brand new NAFTA, but we do have to make it fair and it’s very unfair to the American worker and very, very unfair to companies that do business in this country,” Trump said after meeting a group of lawmakers in the White House. “It’s why they’re leaving.”
Trump stressed his desire for a fairer trade pact that does not entice U.S. companies to move factories across the border.
“I want to change it and maybe … we do a new NAFTA and we put an extra ‘F’ in the term NAFTA,” Trump told reporters who were allowed briefly into the meeting. The extra “F,” he explained, would stand for “fair.”
Most U.S. farm groups like the current U.S., Canada and Mexico trade pact and do not want to see it dismantled. Agricultural trade between the three countries has skyrocketed in recent years after tariffs were reduced or eliminated under the agreement.
More than 130 farm groups signed onto a recent letter to Trump to stress the importance of NAFTA to the agriculture sector.
“With a few key sector exceptions that still require attention, North America intraregional food and agriculture trade is now free of tariff and quota restrictions,” they wrote. “Because of these market access gains, the food and agricultural sectors of the North American region have become far more integrated, as is evidenced by rising trade in agricultural products and substantial levels of cross-border investment in the agriculture and food sectors…”
Trump’s comments today come after a reported phone call he had Friday with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. The AP reported today that Trump threatened to send U.S. troops into Mexico unless Mexico takes control of the “bad hombres” down there. The AP said it was unclear whom Trump was talking about and Peña Nieto’s response was unknown.
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The call followed the building of tensions between the two presidents that led to Peña Nieto canceling a Washington meeting that had been scheduled for Jan. 31.
Mexico is a major foreign market for U.S. wheat, corn, rice, soybeans, pork, beef and other commodities. The U.S. is a key importer of Mexican fruit, vegetables and livestock.
Reuters reports that Trump also said today that billionaire businessman Wilbur Ross, Trump’s pick to lead the Commerce Department, will head up the renegotiation of NAFTA. Ross sat next to Trump at today’s meeting between Trump and the lawmakers.
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