OTTAWA — Donald Trump’s leading economic adviser says the president wants to strike separate, bilateral trade deals with Canada and Mexico rather than continue renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Larry Kudlow, the director of Trump’s National Economic Council, says the president indicated that preference to him when they spoke on Monday.
Kudlow was speaking today on the Fox News morning program, Fox and Friends.
He also says he relayed that message to a senior member of the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office.
The remarks are likely to create more economic uncertainty between Canada and the U.S. following Trump’s imposition of steel and aluminum tariffs that now affect imports from this country, Mexico and Europe.
Kudlow said Trump doesn’t plan on withdrawing from NAFTA, but he wants to try a different approach.
“Yesterday we met with the president a couple times, and he is very seriously contemplating kind of a shift in the NAFTA negotiations,” Kudlow says.
“His preference now, and he asked me to convey this, is to actually negotiate with Mexico and Canada separately. He prefers bilateral negotiations and he’s looking at two much different countries.
Kudlow says Trump “hates multilateral” treaties.
“Canada is a different country than Mexico, they have different problems, and you know, he’s believed that bilaterals have always been better,” says Kudlow.
“Now I know this is just three countries, but still, you know, oftentimes, when you have to compromise with a whole bunch of countries, you get the worst of the deals.
“Why not try to get the best of the deals for the American people, the American workforce, the American economy and presumably for their economies as well? As I said, Canada is whole lot different than Mexico.”
On Friday, just after the metals tariffs were put in place Trump floated the idea of negotiating separate bilateral trade pacts with Canada and Mexico, if no deal can be reached on modernizing the three-way NAFTA.
A senior official told The Canadian Press that the chances of striking any deal on NAFTA — ever — had “just fallen through the floor.”
“The government commitment remains NAFTA,” said one of several officials, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of negotiations and efforts to manage deteriorating relations with the United States.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto renewed their commitment to NAFTA last week after the tariffs were imposed. Two two leaders “agreed to continue working toward a mutually beneficial outcome” on NAFTA, said Trudeau’s office.
The Canadian Press