Tough talk? Trump threatens to 'terminate NAFTA at some point'

By Sandi Soendker, Land Line editor-in-chief | 8/23/2017

President Trump spoke to a crowd in Phoenix on Tuesday evening, an event that the White House called a campaign rally for the next election. Among the topics he touched on – the NAFTA renegotiations.

“Personally, I don’t think we can make a deal,” he said. “Because we have been so badly taken advantage of. They have made such great deals – both of the countries, but in particular Mexico – that I don’t think we can make a deal.”

Trump said he thought “we’ll end up probably terminating NAFTA at some point.”

Despite the strong language from the president, Wednesday’s headlines did not present alarming reactions from trade officials from Canada and Mexico. Several officials and trade experts immediately clarified in comments that the tough talk is “all part of the negotiating process.”

It’s long been clear that Trump’s White House is not interested in a “mere tweaking” of the 23-year-old trade pact with the U.S., Canada and Mexico, but Tuesday in Phoenix was the first time the president has threatened to terminate since the NAFTA talks began Aug. 16. The termination has been a repeated promise since he was elected.

In a trilateral statement issued a week ago on the conclusion of “NAFTA Round One,” trade officials from all three countries announced intentions to continue to engage a wide range of stakeholders for talks. According to a news release from the United States Trade Representative’s Office, negotiators will meet with labor groups, industry associations, legislators, state/provincial officials, civil societies and representatives of the private sector.

Earlier this summer, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative hosted a three-day public meeting in D.C. on “matters relevant to the modernization” of NAFTA. Nearly 140 witnesses from the U.S., Canada and Mexico offered suggestions. OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer delivered comments on behalf of the Association’s members.

OOIDA remains adamant that the cross-border trucking program with Mexico, which allows long-haul trucking beyond the commercial zones, should be dropped from the program.

The announced plan from the Office of the USTR is for negotiators from each country to continue domestic consultations and work to advance negotiating text through the end of August, and will reconvene in Mexico for a second round of talks from Sept. 1-5.

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