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Trump Says it Again About NAFTA: ‘May Have to Terminate’
Mexico and Canada are being “very difficult” in negotiations for the new NAFTA, President Trump said with the second round of talks to begin on Friday, adding in a tweet, “may have to terminate?” It was the second time since talks started that Trump has said the U.S. might abandon the 1994 free-trade agreement among the three largest countries, and neighbors, on the continent.
“We are in the NAFTA (worst trade deal ever made) renegotiation process with Mexico & Canada. Both being very difficult, may have to terminate?” said the president on his personal Twitter account, @realdonaldtrump. It was the first time that Trump complained about Canada’s role in the talks, said Canadian Press.
Canada and Mexico account for one third of U.S. agricultural trade. The North American neighbors are the two leading U.S. sources of food and ag imports and rank No. 2 and No .3, respectively, behind China as the largest customer for U.S. farm products. Ag exports to the U.S. neighbor quadrupled under NAFTA. U.S. farm groups have urged the administration to avoid any disruption in the duty-free trade.
During the first round of talks, August 16-20, the three nations agreed to an “accelerated and comprehensive negotiation process” to update trade rules for the world’s largest free-trade region. It was unclear how Trump’s repeated suggestions of abandoning NAFTA would affect negotiations.
Officials in Canada and Mexico shrugged off, as a negotiating tactic, Trump’s comment at a rally in Phoenix last week, “Personally, I don’t think we can make a deal…. I think we’ll end up probably terminating NAFTA at some point. He also said, “I personally personally don’t think you can make a deal without a termination, but we’re going to see what happens, OK? You’re in good hands, I can tell you.” The chief U.S. goals are elimination of trade deficits and more manufacturing jobs.
Trump promised repeatedly during the 2016 election campaign that he would scrap the 1994 free-trade agreement if he could not renegotiate its terms to better advantage. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is credited with helping to persuade Trump in April to renegotiate NAFTA rather than abandon it.
Produce growers are divided along regional lines “over a protectionist proposal the Trump administration is preparing to submit in the NAFTA talks,” says Politico. The language would make it easier for growers in the Southeast to seek antidumping and countervailing duties against seasonal surges of imported produce. At present, trade law requires damage to the industry nationwide. Politico says the provision will be submitted in time for the negotiating session in Mexico City.
“In this case, what’s good for produce growers in Georgia and Florida — states with growing seasons that overlap with Mexico’s — could prove damaging to those in states like California and Washington, where many have benefited from NAFTA’s open borders by investing in Mexico or relying heavily on the country’s export market,” said Politico.