Donald Trump had plans to pull out of NAFTA “two or three days from now,” but the leaders of Canada and Mexico managed to change his mind, the president told reporters on Thursday.
Trump has been blustering on the trade deal for weeks, as he nears his 100th day in office, but has turned his attention away from Mexico, much to the chagrin of the Canadian government.
The president cited his relationship with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Enrique Peña Nieto as the main reason why he changed his mind.
“I like them very much, I respect their countries very much, the relationship is very special, I will hold on the termination and we’ll see if we can make it a fair deal,” Trump told reporters.
Even if Trump wanted to pull out immediately, it wouldn’t be possible under the deal. Chapter 22 of NAFTA maintains that a party can only pull out six months after it notifies the other two parties.
Recalling Wednesday night’s phone call with the president, Trudeau told reporters on Thursday that: “We agreed that we could sit down and get to work at looking at ways to improve NAFTA.”
Trudeau and Peña Nieto have remained largely coy in public about the prospect of a re-negotiated deal, unlike Trump, who hasn’t shied away from hashing his problems with the deal out in public.
Both leaders echoed the same sentiment on Thursday: That the immediate withdrawal from NAFTA would send a “shock” through the three tightly-integrated economies.
Politico and Bloomberg have both reported in recent days about the ongoing fight within Trump’s White House between those who want to yank America out of the agreement, led by chief strategist Steve Bannon; and those who would rather just renegotiate.
If America were to leave, Canada and Mexico would still be party to the agreement.