During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump famously criticized NAFTA as the “worst trade deal ever signed in this country.” President Trump is now taking a somewhat softer line on NAFTA.
A draft letter from the White House emerged this week that indicates the administration wants to re-negotiate the trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, leaving some provisions in place, while seeking changes to others. The document contains few details, but it does indicate that the president would like the ability to impose tariffs on some imported products. Re-opening NAFTA negotiations would require Congressional approval.
On the Texas-Mexico border, where trade between the U.S. and Mexico has strengthened local economies, some leaders who ordinarily do not agree with President Trump on much are cheering the apparent willingness to leave the building blocks of NAFTA in place.
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo) says NAFTA has been good for the border economy, and that he sees the new White House approach as positive.
“It shows that President Trump has backed away from this very harsh rhetoric…What this letter says is that he is ready to negotiate with the Mexican government and the Canadian government.”
On the administration’s work with border lawmakers:
“They are consulting with…my good friend [Texas Congressman] Kevin Brady, the chairman of the Ways and Mean [Committee.] He is somebody that believes in trade. And I think President Trump is going to find both Democrats and Republicans that support NAFTA.”
On criticism from Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch that the President is going back on his pledge to end NAFTA:
“With all due respect to that group, they are against trade agreements…So of course they’re not happy. But for some of us that live in the practical world – let’s say in my home town of Laredo, Texas – every day there’s 14,000 trailers going north, 7,000 trailers going south. I see that jobs are created. I want to see Mexico as a strong, secure, prosperous neighbor…If you think people are coming across right now, imagine what would happen if their economy wasn’t growing. “
On Democrats supporting President Trump’s position:
“Some of us have been trying to work with Mexico…to make sure that both economies are helped. Because we want to create jobs here, and of course we want to have a strong, prosperous Mexico. But the bottom line is some of us have been talking about this way before we got a new president last January.”