President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, played a key role in the Trump administration’s decision to back down from its threat to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Exactly what that role involved, however, is a matter of dispute. Kushner was a conduit between Canadian officials and the Trump administration but accounts differ about the details.
Last month, various news reports said that Trump was preparing to invoke Article 2205 of NAFTA, the first step in withdrawing from the trade agreement that the U.S. president had attacked so fiercely on the campaign trail. Several hours later, however, the administration appeared to reverse course, saying Trump had been persuaded by the leaders of Mexico and Canada to stay in the deal.
“Two people that I like very much, the president of Mexico, prime minister of Canada, they called up, they said, can we negotiate? I said yes, we can renegotiate,” Trump explained at a rally in Pennsylvania a few days later.
The events of April 26 set off a torrent of speculation about what really happened inside the White House. Some said that the administration had been bluffing all along, using the talk about the withdrawal to get Canada and Mexico to take seriously its plans to renegotiate the trade agreement. Others said the turnaround reflected a struggle within the White House between economic nationalists like chief strategist Steve Bannon and National Trade Council chief Peter Navarro and globalist hardliners such as National Economic Council head Gary Cohn.
Bannon and Navarro had reportedly drafted an executive order that would have initiated the withdrawal process. The globalists in the business community had sprung into action following reports on the imminent order from from the New York Times, CNN and others.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has put forward a third theory, according to which the events of April 26 were neither a power struggle nor a “Art of the Deal” negotiating tactic. Instead, Ross said that this was simply a leak of an ongoing policy discussion that got taken too far by the American media.
“What people don’t understand is the president encourages lively discussion. In the course of those discussions all kinds of alternatives come up,” Ross told CNBC. “I think what’s unfortunate is that someone leaked one of the many potential papers that was floating around, and created a whole skirmish over something that had not been decided upon by the president.”
Now reports have emerged that put Kushner at the center of the globalist effort to save NAFTA. According to the news service The Canadian Press, Kushner called the chief of staff of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to suggest that the prime minister immediately call Trump. The staffer, Katie Telford, called the prime minister who then called Trump, according to the Canadian Press.
White House officials tell a slightly different story. They say that Kushner was contacted by Trudeau or his aides earlier in the day, and that Kushner agreed to set up a time for a phone call later in the day.
The two stories differ about who reached out to whom first. They agree, however, that Kushner’s call to the Canadians is what prompted the call between Trump and Trudeau that the U.S. president says convinced him to back away from exiting NAFTA.