Trump: Leaving NAFTA would be 'shock to the system'

Trump: Leaving NAFTA would be 'shock to the system'
© Greg Nash

President Trump on Thursday explained why he decided not to pull the United Sates out of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), saying it would have been a “shock to the system.”

"I decided rather than terminating NAFTA, which would be a pretty big, you know, shock to the system, we will renegotiate,” Trump said before a meeting with Argentina’s president in the Oval Office. 

He said the talks would “start very soon. It's actually starting today.”
 
The president said he could still move to withdraw from the agreement if talks with Mexico and Canada falter. 
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“Now, if I'm unable to make a fair deal, if I'm unable to make a fair deal for the United States, meaning a fair deal for our workers and our companies, I will terminate NAFTA,” he said. “But we're going to give renegotiation a good, strong shot."

The White House surprised its allies and trading partners on Wednesday when news broke that the administration was considering a draft executive order that would have announced the U.S.’s intent to leave the three-nation trade deal, which Trump has repeatedly criticized as a “disaster for our country.”

Late Wednesday, Trump informed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in a pair of phone calls that he would not pull out of NAFTA.

Trump claimed Thursday that the calls had changed his mind. He said that he “was going to terminate NAFTA two or three days from now” but that Trudeau and Peña Nieto asked him to renegotiate instead. 

The move would have also triggered a widespread backlash from lawmakers in both parties who back free trade and the U.S. business community.