Trump wants to 'speed' up NAFTA talks, calls deal a 'catastrophe'

NAFTA explained
NAFTA explained

President Trump wants to "speed" up talks for a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada.

"NAFTA has been a catastrophe for our country; it's been a catastrophe for our workers and our jobs and our companies," Trump said Thursday morning, referring to the trade deal with America's two neighbors.

Trump announced that commerce secretary nominee Wilbur Ross would be his top negotiator on the deal.

"I don't care if it's a renovation of NAFTA or a brand new NAFTA, but we do have to make it fair and it's very unfair for the American worker," said Trump.

His comments come a day after Mexico kicked off the countdown on trade negotiations. President Enrique Peña Nieto announced Wednesday he would start trade negotiations to reform NAFTA in May, after a 90-day consultation period with Mexican businesses.

"At the end of the 90 days, the negotiation will properly open to update our free trade agreement," Peña Nieto said at a press conference in Mexico City.

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Trump also acknowledged that the 90-day period was in effect.

It's the first sign of an official timetable for talks on NAFTA, the free trade deal between United States, Mexico and Canada.

In his news conference, Peña Nieto advocated for Mexicans to buy products "Hecho en Mexico" or "Made in Mexico" -- a clear response to Trump's "America First" slogan.

Trump blames NAFTA for the loss of millions of U.S. manufacturing jobs to Mexico. While nonpartisan congressional research found that not to be true, NAFTA has become a focal point for Trump.

"Anybody ever hear of NAFTA? I ran a campaign somewhat based on NAFTA. But we're going to start renegotiating on NAFTA," Trump said on his second full day in office.

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According to the White House website, Trump will withdraw from NAFTA if the U.S. doesn't get a better deal. Exactly what would make a better deal is unclear. Trump's team has been slim on details, even on Thursday.

Trump's trade adviser Peter Navarro, who was present during the announcement, has said in recent TV interviews that he would like "tighter rules of origin." In NAFTA, a certain amount of parts in a product must come from one of the three countries. In cars, 62.5% of the parts must come from Mexico, Canada or the United States.

Experts say increasing that percentage could bring jobs back to the United States because some aspects of auto parts and assembly are only sourced in the U.S. The problem is, it would result in higher car prices.

Otherwise it's unclear what Trump wants or how he plans to bring manufacturing jobs back to America.

He is considering using a 20% tax on all goods imported from Mexico to pay for the border wall. While that would badly hurt Mexico's economy, it would also mean that Americans, not Mexicans, would pay that tax on goods they buy

One thing is clear: Trump plans to reshape U.S. trade policy this year.

"I think we're going to have a whole new picture by the time we finish," Trump said.

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