US pledges to renegotiate, not scrap, NAFTA

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The US government has pledged to remain a part of NAFTA and renegotiate the deal, rather than attempting to scrap it.

The US government has committed to renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), backing away from previous threats to scrap the deal altogether.

After months of expressing dissatisfaction with the three-country trade deal between the US, Canada and Mexico, President Donald Trump has told his Mexican and Canadian counterparts that the aim will now to come to a new agreement over NAFTA that will be mutually beneficial for all three nations.

This represents something of a surprise, as Mr Trump has been a harsh critic of the NAFTA deal - which has been in force since 1994 - throughout his successful election campaign and the early days of his presidency.

Describing the pact as the "single worst trade deal ever", the Republican has spoken on numerous occasions about his belief that NAFTA has wiped out many US manufacturing jobs, because it allowed companies to move factories to Mexico to take advantage of low-wage labor.

He also expressed the view that it has allowed Canada to gain competitive advantages over the US, and had been talking about the possibility of scrapping the deal as recently as last week. This was followed by widespread reports that the president was on the cusp of signing an executive order to pull the US out of the deal.

This was considered to be a realistic possibility after he signed a similar order earlier this year to end US participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a major free trade agreement signed by his predecessor Barack Obama.

However, the new White House statement has calmed these fears, saying: "President Trump agreed not to terminate NAFTA at this time and the leaders agreed to proceed swiftly, according to their required internal procedures, to enable the renegotiation of the NAFTA deal to the benefit of all three countries."

Mr Trump added that the aim will now be to bring NAFTA "up to date through renegotiation", while a similar statement from the Mexican government has confirmed that all three nations are in agreement over this course of action.