Donald Trump may seek separate talks with Canada and Mexico in an effort to get individual trade deals with the two countries, the White House economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said on Tuesday.
“He is very seriously contemplating kind of a shift in the Nafta negotiations. His preference now, and he asked me to convey this, is to actually negotiate with Mexico and Canada separately,” Kudlow said in an interview with Fox News.
“He may be moving quickly towards these bilateral discussions instead of as a whole.”
The United States, Canada and Mexico have been in months of negotiations to rework the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), which Trump has long criticized as having harmed the United States economically.
Kudlow’s comments come as tensions between the US and its two largest trading partners are escalating. On Tuesday Mexico announced it was imposing tariffs on a raft of US goods including including pork, cheese, apples, potatoes, Tennessee or bourbon whiskey and cranberries.
The Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, who will host what looks set to be a heated summit of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations this week, called the tariffs an affront to the longstanding security partnership between Canada and the United States, and announced retaliatory steps.
On Friday, Trump said he might prefer to end Nafta in favor of separate bilateral agreements with the two US neighbors.
Kudlow said Trump was moving toward that scenario.
“He prefers bilateral negotiations and he’s looking at two much different countries,” he said. “Canada’s a different country than Mexico. They have different problems.
“He believes that bilaterals have always been better. He hates these multilaterals … he hates large treaties.”
Such a move toward separate talks would come at a tense time in US trade relations with the two countries. The Trump administration said on Thursday it was moving ahead with tariffs on aluminum and steel imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union, ending a two-month exemption and setting the stage for a possible trade war.
In a television appearance on Sunday, Kudlow called the trade frictions with Canada a “family quarrel”.
This article provided by NewsEdge.