President Donald Trump used one of his first appearances in the White House to reaffirm a campaign promise to renegotiate Nafta, indicating that he isn’t retreating from the opposition to free trade that was central to his election campaign.
Trump said he’ll meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to begin discussing the two-decade old North American Free Trade Agreement, which he has routinely blamed for the loss of U.S. jobs. The newly sworn-in president praised Mexico for being “terrific” and signaled that he’s willing to work with the U.S.’s closest neighbors.
“We’re going to start renegotiating on Nafta, on immigration, and on security at the border,” Trump said at the start of a swearing-in ceremony for top White House staff. “I think we’re going to have a very good result for Mexico, for the United States, for everybody involved. It’s really very important.”
Political leaders and companies around the world are closely following Trump’s words for clues on how the protectionist rhetoric of his campaign will be translated into policies. Both his inaugural address and his brief remarks Sunday at a White House ceremony show that he isn’t bound by traditional Republican ideology on free trade if he sees it at odds with America’s interests.
“We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength,” Trump said in Friday’s inaugural address.
The Mexican peso has fallen 18 percent since Trump’s surprise victory in the Nov. 8 election. Trump repeatedly used Twitter to berate American and international companies, including automakers, that have manufacturing operations in Mexico, and has proposed a border tax to encourage production to stay in the U.S.
Trump will meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May this week, with trade high on the agenda. Trump spoke with Trudeau of Canada on Saturday, and plans for additional meetings “in the days to come,” according to White House spokesman Sean Spicer. Pena Nieto is expected to meet with Trump on Jan. 31.