Trump promises 'pleasant surprises' on NAFTA

Trump promises 'pleasant surprises' on NAFTA
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President Trump told a group of business executives Tuesday that he will have “pleasant surprises” on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). 

“We’ll have some very pleasant surprises for you on NAFTA,” he said during a meeting with CEOs at the White House. 

Trump reiterated his campaign trail refrain that the trade deal in its present form is a “disaster.”

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The president’s statement did little to clear up the conflicting signals coming from his administration over how far he plans to go in overhauling the sweeping trade pact with Canada and Mexico. 

The White House has distanced itself from a draft memo circulated to lawmakers by the U.S. Trade Representative’s office late last month suggesting Trump would seek more modest changes. 

The draft plan would leave in place a controversial arbitration panel that allows investors to bypass local courts to resolve civil claims. It also would not address currency manipulation concerns or set targets for U.S. trade deficits. 

But White House press secretary Sean Spicer later said the document does not represent Trump’s objectives in future trade talks with Canada and Mexico. 

“That is not a statement of administration policy at this point,” he told reporters in late March. “That is not an accurate assessment of where we are at this time.”

Trump’s efforts to jump start new trade talks have been hampered, in part, because his pick for U.S. trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, has yet to be confirmed by the Senate. 

Senators punted Lighthizer’s confirmation vote until after the two-week Easter recess amid debate over whether he needs to seek a waiver because he represented foreign governments in trade talks in the 1980s and 1990s.