Donald Trump reiterated his call for updating the North American Free Trade Agreement on Wednesday after a meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who echoed the Republican presidential nominee’s sentiments and said his country would be willing to work with the next American president to improve the trade deal.
Trump met with Peña Nieto in Mexico City on Wednesday before giving a planned major speech on immigration in Phoenix later Wednesday night.
Trump has come under fire for a series of disparaging comments he has made about Mexican immigrants. Macy’s Inc. dropped his signature suit business in its stores last year over Trump’s incendiary comments on the campaign trail. And Trump has also faced criticism for reportedly having his suit and tie collection made in Mexico and China, while he simultaneously rails against offshoring.
While Trump stood by his position on NAFTA, an agreement he has threatened to withdraw the U.S. from if he is elected and it is not improved, he also appeared to be trying to mend fences with Mexico’s president.
“I shared my strong view that NAFTA has been a far greater benefit to Mexico than it has been to the United States and that it must be improved upon to make sure that workers…in both countries benefit from fair and reciprocal trade,” Trump said. “I expressed that the United States… must take action to stem this tremendous outflow of jobs from our country. It’s happening every day. It’s getting worse and worse and worse and we have to stop it.”
He ticked off five shared goals that he would like to see, including ending illegal immigration and securing the border.
“Improving NAFTA” was also one of those goals.
“NAFTA is a 22-year-old agreement that must be updated to reflect the realities of today,” Trump said. “There are many improvements that could be made that would make both Mexico and the United States stronger and keep industry in our hemisphere.”
Trump called for keeping jobs in the Western Hemisphere, noting that “when jobs leave Mexico, the U.S. or Central America and go overseas, it increases poverty and puts pressure on social services as well as pressures on cross-border migration.”
Peña Nieto said he was open to updating NAFTA. But Canada, the other trade partner in the sweeping trade deal, would also have to agree to come to the table in order for it to be renegotiated.
“The next American president will find in my government a partner willing to find ways to modernize NAFTA, so it can be more effective in creating more good paying jobs and of quality on both sides of the border,” Peña Nieto said.
But he noted that trade should not be “treated as a zero-sum endeavor where one must lose so the other can win.”
Peña Nieto said NAFTA has been “good” for the U.S. and Mexico, noting that U.S. exports to Mexico are nearly $200 million and some six million jobs in the U.S. are supported by those exports. He said on average 40 percent of the contents of Mexican exports are made in the U.S. and Mexico buys more from the U.S. than it does from Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom combined.
“As a partner, we should work together to keep jobs from leaving our region,” he said. “This does not mean the free-trade agreement of North America can’t be enhanced for the benefit of both sides.”