Trump: I was 'psyched to terminate' NAFTA

Trump: I was 'psyched to terminate' NAFTA
© Greg Nash

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Trump to withdraw FEMA chief nominee: report MORE was poised to withdraw the U.S. from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) before a bevy of advisers and administration officials reportedly talked him out of it.

"I was all set to terminate," Trump told The Washington Post on Thursday. "I looked forward to terminating. I was going to do it."

Trump echoed that characterization in an interview with Reuters, saying he was "psyched to terminate" NAFTA before fielding calls with the leaders of Mexico and Canada.

The president had planned to sign the document triggering a U.S. withdrawal from NAFTA on Saturday — his 100th day in office. But a group of top administration officials, including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, urged the president to reconsider the move, the Post reported.

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Trump acknowledged earlier on Thursday that terminating the free trade agreement would be a "shock to the system."

He explained his change of heart by pointing to phone calls with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin TrudeauJustin Pierre James TrudeauPhoto shows Justin Trudeau wearing brownface at 2001 party Our last best chance of redemption: Why Congress needs to pass USMCA Pelosi updates Trudeau on status of Trump's NAFTA revamp MORE.

"[Peña Nieto] said to me, 'I would really appreciate if we could negotiate instead of you terminating, because terminating sets a lot of things in motion that could be pretty devastating for a lot of people,' " Trump recalled to the Post.

As a presidential candidate, Trump vowed to withdraw from NAFTA, often disparaging it as "one of the worst deals ever." And while the president decided to keep the agreement in place, he said on Thursday that a U.S. withdrawal is still on the table if negotiations falter. 

“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,” Trump said Thursday. “But we're going to give renegotiation a good, strong shot."