President Donald Trump, whose tariff fight is overtaking the Group of Seven leaders’ meeting, renewed his threats to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement and pursue separate deals with Canada and Mexico.
Trump met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday evening during the G-7 summit in La Malbaie, Quebec. The top NAFTA negotiators from the U.S. and Canada met earlier during the summit, after Trump in the morning complained about what he called the unfair trading practices of his NAFTA partners, also including Mexico.
“We are actually working on it. Our relationship is very good,” Trump said during a photo session with Trudeau before private talks, where both leaders cracked jokes in front of reporters. “It could be that NAFTA will be a different form. It could be with Canada, with Mexico, one on one -- much simpler agreement, much easier to do. I think better for both countries. We’re talking about that among other things.”
Later, while meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, Trump said he’d had a "very, very good meeting on NAFTA."
Before leaving Washington for the summit, Trump threatened to withdraw from the pact -- reversing a statement by his economic adviser earlier this week who said Trump wouldn’t walk away. “If we’re unable to make a deal we’ll terminate NAFTA,” Trump said Friday morning. “With that being said I think we’ll probably easily make a deal.”
Trade is set to dominate the G-7 talks, as allies speak out against U.S. policies that threaten to upend global growth and the multilateral system. Trump has said he’ll use the summit to argue that the other six nations are taking advantage of the U.S. on trade.
Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said she held talks at the summit with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer over NAFTA, U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum and a Trump administration probe into the national security risks from auto imports. A USTR spokeswoman declined to comment on Friday.
Talks to revamp NAFTA began in August but have slowed and are now on the back burner, with a key senator saying the window to pass a deal in the current Congress has closed. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Tuesday that Trump would prefer to negotiate NAFTA separately with each country, but that “the president’s not going to leave NAFTA.”