Trump vows to 'start renegotiating' NAFTA

WASHINGTON DC, USA – US President Donald Trump pledged Sunday, January 22, to begin renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in upcoming talks with the leaders of Mexico and Canada.

"We're meeting with the prime minister of Canada and we will be meeting with the president of Mexico, who I know, and we're going to start some negotiations having to do with NAFTA," Trump said while addressing White House staff on his second full day in office.

Trump will receive his Mexican counterpart Enrique Peña Nieto on January 31. No date has been given for a meeting with Canada's Justin Trudeau, but it is expected "soon," according to a readout from a call between the two leaders on Saturday, January 21.

Trump praised the Mexican leader, saying: "The president has been really very amazing and I think we are going to have a very good result for Mexico, for the United States, for everybody involved. It's very important."

As a candidate Trump made a surprise visit to Mexico in a bid to portray himself as a capable statesman on the international stage. 

The meeting turned controversial after Peña Nieto and Trump contradicted each other's accounts of the encounter.

Trump told reporters that the pair did not discuss who would pay for the hotly contested border wall he has promised to build, while Peña Nieto said he "made it clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall".

The real estate magnate vowed throughout his campaign to construct a massive wall along the US-Mexican border to stem illegal immigration, promising that Mexico would foot the bill.

Concerning NAFTA, the White House website was updated immediately after Trump's swearing-in to reflect his campaign commitment to renegotiate the free trade agreement that has linked Canada, the United States and Mexico since 1994.

On the campaign trail, Trump called NAFTA the worst trade deal the United States has ever signed and vowed to renegotiate or rip it up.

The rules governing the free trade agreement allow any country to withdraw simply by notifying other parties. This would start a 180-day clock to allow for new negotiations. 

If no new deal is reached by then, the accord would be dissolved.

Since Trump's November victory, both Canada and Mexico have announced that they are willing to sit down with the new US administration to reexamine the free trade agreement.

Canada has said it expects to keep its 1989 bilateral free trade agreement with the US even if Trump withdraws from NAFTA.

Peña Nieto, meanwhile, spoke with Trudeau by phone on Sunday to coordinate efforts to protect an economically integrated North America, the Mexican leader's office said.

In the call, Peña Nieto "stressed how important Mexico's relationship with Canada is, as well as (the importance of) the free trade agreement and free flow of investment capital".

The Mexican and Canadian leaders "agreed to redouble efforts to continue fostering economic integration in North America," the Mexican president's office statement said. – Rappler.com