USA Politics First Look

Report: Trump eyeing executive action of NAFTA as early as Monday

Trump signed an executive order Monday to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Promises to renegotiate, or withdraw from, trade deals to secure better deals for American workers were central to President Trump's campaign.

In this Monday, Nov. 21, 2016 photo, a truck travels on an overpass towards the World Trade Bridge, in Laredo, Texas. Donald Trump’s campaign promise to abandon the North American Free Trade Agreement helped win over Rust Belt voters who felt left behind by globalization. But the idea is unnerving to many people in cities on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Eric Gay/ AP | Caption

President Trump may sign an executive order as early as Monday to renegotiate the free trade agreement between Canada, the United States, and Mexico, making good on a promise he championed on the campaign trail.

White House sources told NBC that Mr. Trump was expected to soon sign an executive order stating his intent to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). On Monday morning, he signed an executive order to withdraw  from the the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). 

“We will be starting negotiations having to do with NAFTA," Trump said at a swearing-in ceremony Sunday for his top White House advisers, saying he planned to enter talks with Canadian and Mexican leaders about the agreement.

"Anybody ever hear of NAFTA? I ran a campaign somewhat based on NAFTA. But we are going to start renegotiating on NAFTA, on immigration and on security at the border," he said, as CNN reports.

The White House reported that Trump is scheduled to meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Jan. 31.

Trump criticized the trade deals throughout his campaign, calling them unfair deals that hurt US employment, particularly in manufacturing. He has also vowed to crack down on trade partners that violate trade laws, such as China, many of whose companies have been accused of stealing trade secrets. 

But getting Mexico and Canada to renegotiate the deal and receiving support from Congress could prove difficult. Trump has started his relationship with Mr. Nieto on shaky ground after repeatedly threatening to build a border wall between the two nations on a bill footed by Mexico. Congress, meanwhile, is dominated by Republicans who have long championed free trade and could try to block the moves.

It’s unclear exactly what changes Trump would bring. In June, he rolled out seven steps he planned to take to reform trade, including taking tougher stances on trade partners who violate laws, appointing the “toughest” and “smartest” trade negotiators on the nation’s behalf, and to cut NAFTA and the TPP.

That last step has made some analysts and corporations uneasy. Trade officials have noted that 48 of the 50 states engage in the majority of their trading and job-creation through relations with either Mexico or Canada, and that US tariffs could prompt other countries' countertariffs, possibly sparking a trade war.

“For people who believe in economic internationalism, this is terrifying,” Susan Aaronson, a research professor of international affairs at George Washington University, previously told The Christian Science Monitor.

Stepping back from the TPP could prove an easier feat, as the newer trade deal struck under former President Barack Obama has imposed Democratic-favored labor and environmental rules on the countries involved, which have proven less popular. Many observers say it would face a battle in the Congress even if Trump had lost the election.

But trade experts say that an effort on part of the US to withdraw from such agreements and seek more favorable terms could fall flat, as China emerges as a powerful player in the Asian market.

“In the past, the approach more often than not was, ‘We’ll wait to work out a way forward with the US,’ but that is changing with more eyes turning towards China,” Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Americas Society and Council of the Americas in Washington, previously told the Monitor. “Now, we hear regional leaders like the president of Mexico and others saying, ‘We want and need the US engaged in the region, but if the US withdraws, we’re going forward without them.’”

This report contains material from Reuters.