Trump says he'd like to speed up the start of NAFTA talks
'I don't care if it's the renovation of NAFTA or a brand new NAFTA," Trump says of talks
U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday he would like to quickly get started on talks on the possible replacement or renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.
"I would like to speed it up if possible. You're the folks who can do it," Trump said during a meeting in the White House with a bipartisan group of politicians from the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives.
"NAFTA has been a catastrophe for our country," Trump said.
"I want to change it and maybe we do a new NAFTA. Maybe we put an extra 'F' in the term NAFTA. You know what the 'F' is for, right? Free and fair trade. Not just free trade," he said.
"I don't care if it's the renovation of NAFTA or a brand new NAFTA, but we do have to make it fair," he added.
Trump also indicated that Wilbur Ross, his pick to become the next commerce secretary, will lead the negotiations. Under previous administrations, the U.S. trade representative led trade negotiations, but Washington trade lawyer Robert Lighthizer, Trump's pick for that post, hasn't been confirmed yet.
Under current trade legislation, the Trump administration must provide Congress with written notice of 90 days before it begins talks with another country.
The government of Mexico, which has stated it will negotiate changes to NAFTA but won't accept import quotas or new tariff barriers, said Wednesday it will begin a 90-day consultation period with private business groups about possible alterations to the trade deal.
Mexican government officials have said that formal talk on a NAFTA renegotiation could not begin before the start of May, due to its consultations.
U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, the chairman of the U.S. Senate finance committee, said the time was right for a review of NAFTA.
"NAFTA has served as a strong anchor for our markets in the northern hemisphere and helped to expand trade opportunities for American products, goods, and services," he said, according to Reuters.
"Given that the trade pact is now more than two decades old, a re-examination of the agreement to ensure it remains the best possible deal for American workers and entrepreneurs in the 21st century global economy makes sense."
Trump has already used his executive power to pull the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a pan-oceanic trade pact signed by his predecessor but never ratified.
with files from Meagan Fitzpatrick and Reuters