President Trump told the leaders of Canada and Mexico on Wednesday that the United States would not be pulling out of the North American Free Trade Agreement “at this time,” opening the door to future negotiations on the same day that Trump was considering signaling a strong intent to withdraw as a potential way of bringing the parties together at the dealmaking table.
Trump spoke with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau late Wednesday afternoon after reports circulated during the day that the president was contemplating withdrawing from NAFTA.
“President Trump agreed not to terminate NAFTA at this time and the leaders agreed to proceed swiftly, according to their required internal procedures, to enable the renegotiation of the NAFTA deal to the benefit of all three countries,” the White House said in a statement late Wednesday.
Earlier, three people familiar with the matter said Trump is seriously considering signing a document within days that would signal his intent to withdraw the United States from the agreement within six months.
If signed, the letter would begin a formal process that could see the United States exit the 23-year-old trade pact with Canada and Mexico, ratcheting up tensions among neighboring nations.
Signing the document does not require Trump to withdraw from NAFTA after six months, but it is a required step if he plans to eventually do so. The White House is expected to soon take a separate step by signing a letter to Congress that would notify lawmakers of the administration’s intention to renegotiate NAFTA. By taking both steps, the White House would give itself more flexibility to choose a different outcome in several months.