U.S. President Donald Trump is “seriously contemplating” trying to reach separate trade deals with Canada and Mexico instead of reshaping the more than two-decade-old North American Free Trade Agreement with both neighbors, a White House economic adviser said Tuesday.
Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow told Fox News, “He prefers bilateral negotiations, and he is looking at two much different countries.”
The U.S., Canada and Mexico have for months engaged in talks to revise NAFTA, which has been in force since 1994. But Kudlow said separate deals “might be able to happen more rapidly.”
However, Kudlow said Trump does not plan to withdraw from the three-nation agreement.
“He is seriously contemplating a shift in the NAFTA negotiations … [and] he asked me to convey this,” Kudlow said. The adviser said Trump “believed bilateral is always better. He hates large treaties.”
Trump has long assailed multinational trade deals and within days of assuming power last year, withdrew the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership with 11 other Pacific rim nations.
On Monday, he said on Twitter, “The U.S. has made such bad trade deals over so many years that we can only WIN!”
He declared, “China already charges a tax of 16% on soybeans. Canada has all sorts of trade barriers on our Agricultural products. Not acceptable!”
Trump contended, “Farmers have not been doing well for 15 years. Mexico, Canada, China and others have treated them unfairly. By the time I finish trade talks, that will change. Big trade barriers against U.S. farmers, and other businesses, will finally be broken. Massive trade deficits no longer!”
The NAFTA talks have stalled on U.S. demands to increase American components in duty-free NAFTA autos, as well as its argument that any new agreement end after five years.
Kudlow said he told top Canadian officials Monday about Trump’s hope for bilateral trade talks and is awaiting for reaction from Ottawa.
“The important thought is he may be moving quickly towards these bilateral discussions instead of as a whole,” Kudlow said.
Trump’s trade talks with China, Mexico, Canada and the European Union have proved contentious. The U.S. leader last week drew the ire of Canada, Mexico and the EU by imposing tariffs on their aluminum and steel exports.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the tariffs “insulting and unacceptable.” In a weekend television interview, Kudlow called the U.S.-Canada trade dispute a “family quarrel.”