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Trump Decided To Renegotiate NAFTA ‘Out Of Respect’ To Mexico And Canada

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President Donald Trump promised to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) after calls from the leaders of Mexico and Canada, and said “It would’ve been very disrespectful” if he had refused.

“I was all set to terminate [NAFTA], you know?,” Trump told the Economist during an interview May 4, released Thursday. “And this wasn’t like—this wasn’t a game I was playing. I’m not playing,” Trump said.

Trump announced that he would renegotiate NAFTA rather than withdraw from the international trade agreement April 26, following calls with Mexican President Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Both leaders called Trump separately, “ten minutes apart,” Trump said. “I just put down the phone with the president of Mexico when the prime minister of Canada called. And they both asked almost identical questions. ‘We would like to know if it would be possible to negotiate as opposed to a termination.’ And I said, ‘Yes, it is. Absolutely.’ So, so we did that and we’ll start.”

Trump’s promise to renegotiate NAFTA to be more fair to the U.S. in terms of trade deficits is a stark pivot from his campaign promises and statements as president.

“I had no thought of anything else but termination,” Trump told the Economist. “But because of my relationship with both of them, I said, I would like to give that a try too, that’s fine. I mean, out of respect for them. It would’ve been very disrespectful to Mexico and Canada had I said, ‘I will not.’”

A few days before Trump switched course on NAFTA, several Trump advisors, including Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, showed the president a map of all the rural, farm counties that benefit from NAFTA and also voted Republican in the 2016 presidential election.

Trump hopes to renegotiate NAFTA to improve America’s trade deficits with Mexico and Canada. America has “almost a $70bn trade deficit with Mexico. And it has about a $15bn dollar trade deficit with Canada,” Trump said.

The deficits don’t have to be zero to be fair, “But at some point would like to get it at zero, where sometimes we can be up and sometimes they can be up,” Trump said.

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