President Donald Trump has told the leaders of Mexico and Canada that that he would not immediately move to terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), the White House said.

This came on Wednesday just hours after administration officials said Trump was likely to sign an order pulling the US out of the deal, the New York Times reported.

The White House described the evening phone calls with President Enrique Pena Nieto of Mexico and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada as "pleasant and productive".

Trump told both that he would quickly start the process of renegotiating Nafta – not abandon it, as he promised during the 2016 presidential campaign, 

"It is my privilege to bring Nafta up-to-date through renegotiation," Trump said in a statement issued by the White House at 10.33 p.m. 

"I believe that the end result will make all three countries stronger and better."

The announcement that came in a read-out appeared to be an example of Trump's deal-making in real time, the New York Times report said. 

It followed a day in which officials signalled that he was laying the groundwork to pull out of Nafta – a move intended to increase pressure on Congress to authorise new negotiations, and on Canada and Mexico to accede to American demands.