Trump calls NAFTA, established January 1, 1994, a 'disaster' and has pledged to renegotiate the terms or abandon the pact altogether. Photograph: (AFP)
NAFTA partners Mexico, Canada and the United States plan to swiftly renegotiate their free trade deal, the White House announced Wednesday.
President Donald Trump "agreed not to terminate NAFTA at this time and the leaders agreed to proceed swiftly... to enable the renegotiation of the NAFTA deal," a statement said.
The announcement came after reports in US media had said that Trump was considering giving formal notice of pulling the United States out of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
A draft executive order was in the final stages of review, two White House officials told the Politico news website, and could be unveiled within a week or two. The New York Times had quoted a senior administration official saying Trump was likely to sign such an executive order.
But late Wednesday Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross brushed off the reports as "rumor".
"There was a rumor today that there would be an executive order, just a rumor, and my practice is to comment on things we have actually done or are doing as opposed to commenting on rumors," he said.
Trump calls NAFTA, established January 1, 1994, a "disaster" and has pledged to renegotiate the terms or abandon the pact altogether.
He blames NAFTA for the loss of millions of US industrial jobs, mostly to Mexico.
His administration also slapped tariffs in recent days on some imports of Canadian timber and threatened to retaliate against Canadian moves that harm US dairy farmers. Timber and milk, however, are not covered by NAFTA.
The White House statement said Trump spoke late Wednesday with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada.
"Both conversations were pleasant and productive," it said.
Trump was quoted in the statement saying "it is my privilege to bring NAFTA up to date through renegotiation. It is an honor to deal with both President Pena Nieto and Prime Minister Trudeau, and I believe that the end result will make all three countries stronger and better."