Trump blasts Canada, Mexico over NAFTA talks


U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday railed against Mexico and Canada’s efforts in renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), saying both neighbours had been very difficult.

“NAFTA is very difficult. Mexico has been very difficult to deal with. Canada has been very difficult to deal with … but I will tell you that in the end we win,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

“We will win, and we’ll win big,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Trump, who has repeatedly pledged to revive U.S. manufacturing, said “big news” was coming that would be welcomed by U.S. auto workers, but he gave no details.

“There will be big news coming soon for our great American Autoworkers. After many decades of losing your jobs to other countries, you have waited long enough!” Trump said in a tweet.

The White House declined to comment, and the office of the U.S. Trade Representative referred queries to the White House.

Automakers scrambled after the tweet to get details. Some of them speculated that Trump could be referring to trade with the European Union.

In a meeting earlier this month with major automakers, Trump threatened to impose 20 per cent or 25 per cent tariffs on EU-built vehicles, according to three people briefed on the talks.

Trump has repeatedly criticized the large trade imbalance on autos between the United States and the EU. In March, he threatened in a tweet to “simply apply a Tax on their Cars which freely pour into the U.S.”

The United States imposes a 2.5 per cent tariff on cars assembled in Europe and a 25 per cent tariff on European-built vans and pickup trucks. Europe imposes a 10 per cent tariff on U.S.-built cars.

Auto trade has been a big sticking point in talks between the United States, Mexico and Canada as they try to update NAFTA.

The United States and Mexico have deadlocked over U.S. demands for wage increases in the auto sector and for a boost in the North American content in cars. Last week, the top U.S. trade official said the three countries were “nowhere close to a deal.”

At the same time, Washington and South Korea are working to finalize language in an updated U.S.-Korean Free Trade Agreement.

Under an agreement-in-principle, South Korea agreed to an extension of a 25 per cent U.S. tariff on pickup trucks for another 20 years until 2041. These were due to begin phasing out in 2019, causing concerns that South Korea would soon begin exporting pickup trucks to the United States.

Trump hinted at the possibility of “good news” on trade with South Korea during a meeting on Tuesday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

“We will have some pretty good news, I think, on trade,” he told reporters as the two leaders sat down.


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