President Donald Trump is serious about conducting separate trade negotiations with Canada and Mexico.
Trump mentioned the idea on Friday following a meeting with an official from South Korea. Speaking with reporters on the White House lawn, Trump said that Canda and Mexico were “very different countries” and that he “wouldn’t mind” separate trade deals.
While the Trump remarks Friday appeared to be off-the-cuff, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Tuesday on “Fox & Friends” that the president is “very seriously contemplating” separate trade negotiations.
“His preference now–and he asked me to convey this–is to actually negotiate with Mexico and Canada separately,” Kudlow said.
Trump and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who has been running the NAFTA negotiations, have both said that the U.S. should pursue bilateral rather than multilateral trade agreements. They believe that bilateral agreements are easier to amend and easier to exit than deals that involve more than two countries. What’s more, they can be narrowly tailored to fit the different economies of the two countries.
Talks to update NAFTA, which has been in place since 1994, have stalled recently as a result of demands from Canada and Mexico that the U.S. drop a number of provisions, including one that would see the trade deal expire after five years and provisions related to wages of Mexican autoworkers.
The change in negotiations from multilateral to bilateral could come swiftly.