President Trump said in an interview with Reuters on Thursday that he was "psyched" about the prospect of canceling the North American Free Trade Agreement until changing his mind due to last minute interventions from his staff and diplomats from Mexican and Canada.
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In the interview, Trump recounted his about-face on deciding not to cancel the agreement outright and instead trying to renegotiate the trade pact that has been in place with Canada and Mexico since 1994.
"You know I was really ready and psyched to terminate NAFTA," he told Reuters, before saying he changed his mind. "I'm not looking to hurt Canada and I'm not looking to hurt Mexico. They’re two countries I really like," Trump said. "So they asked to renegotiate, and I said yes."
Earlier Thursday, during a meeting at the White House with Argentinian President Mauricio Macri, Trump said that the threat of ending the trade deal led to calls yesterday from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.
"They said, 'Rather than terminate NAFTA, could you please renegotiate?'" Trump recounted. "I said, 'I will hold on the termination. Let's see if we can make it a fair deal.'"
While campaigning for president, Trump slammed NAFTA as a "disaster" and the "worst trade deal in history."
As president, he has continued to speak out against the trade deal, last week calling it "very, very bad" for American companies and workers.
"We're going to make some very big changes, or we're going to get rid of NAFTA once and for all," he said during a speech in Kenosha, Wisconsin, earlier this month. "It cannot continue like this, believe me."
The trade agreement was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993 and implemented in 1994. NAFTA expanded trade among the U.S., Canada and Mexico, eliminating tariffs on most goods traded among the three countries.