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Trump to renegotiate NAFTA with Mexico, Canada

IANS | Washington |

US President Donald Trump has reiterated he will soon renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and discuss immigration when he meets the leaders of Canada and Mexico.

"Anybody ever hear of NAFTA," Fox news quoted Trump as saying during a White House swearing-in of several top administration officials, including senior adviser Kellyanne Conway.

"I ran a campaign somewhat based on NAFTA, on immigration and security at the border. And Mexico has been terrific."

Trump in his campaign last year promised to renegotiate the 22-year-old trade deal and provide more favourable terms to the US.

The new President will meet his Mexican counterpart Enrique Pena Nieto on January 31. A meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected soon, according to the White House.

"We're going to start some negotiations having to do with NAFTA," Trump said.

Pena Nieto and Trudeau in a phone conversation on Sunday agreed to join forces to encourage economic integration in North America, according to a statement from the Mexican President's office.

"Trump is committed to renegotiating NAFTA. If our partners refuse a renegotiation that gives American workers a fair deal, he will give notice of the US intent to withdraw from NAFTA," reads Trump's America First Foreign Policy published on the website of the White House.

Since the New York mogul's victory in last year's election, both Canada and Mexico have said they will reexamine the free trade agreement with the new US administration.

Canada has said it expects to keep its 1989 bilateral free trade agreement with the US if Trump withdraws from NAFTA.

Canadian Ambassador to the US David MacNaughton on Sunday said the country was not the focus of US efforts to renegotiate NAFTA, suggesting the Trump administration was more concerned about trade deficits with Mexico.

During a surprise trip to Mexico City to meet Pena Nieto in August, Trump said: "I shared my strong view (with Pena Nieto) that NAFTA has been a far greater benefit to Mexico than it has been to the US and that it must be improved to make sure that workers, so important, in both countries benefit from fair and reciprocal trade."

Mexico shuddered at the comment. The trade pact has helped Mexico channel 80 per cent of exports to its neighbour and an improvement Trump wants might mean huge losses for Mexico, Xinhua news agency reported.

NAFTA, which took effect in 1994, created one of the world's largest free trade zones by reducing or eliminating tariffs on most products.