President Donald Trump threatened to cut Canada out of the trade deal his government has been negotiating with Mexico — one day after admitting in an off-the-record interview that he was just stringing Ottawa along.
“There is no political necessity to keep Canada in the new NAFTA deal,” Trump tweeted Saturday morning, in reference to the North American Free Trade Agreement. “If we don’t make a fair deal for the U.S. after decades of abuse, Canada will be out.”
In a follow-up tweet, Trump ripped the 1994 trade agreement among the Mexico, Canada, and the United States, which he said has resulted in the U.S. losing “thousands of businesses and millions of jobs.”
“We make new deal or go back to pre-NAFTA!” the president tweeted Saturday.
The Trump administration announced a new preliminary deal with Mexico last week. The president implied during that announcement that he would be willing to cut Canada out of any new deal.
“They used to call it NAFTA,” he told reporters in the Oval Office. “We’re going to call it the United States-Mexico Trade Agreement.”
The tweets come after The Toronto Star published harsh comments about Canada on Friday that Trump made off the record — meaning not for publication — during an interview with Bloomberg News. Trump confirmed those comments via Twitter.
“Here’s the problem,” Trump told Bloomberg, according to The Star. “If I say no — the answer’s no. If I say no, then you’re going to put that and it’s going to be so insulting they’re not going to be able to make a deal … I can’t kill these people.”
The president went on to say he will only approve a deal with Canada that is “totally on our terms.”
“Over the past year and a half, there’s a lot of things that have been said from time to time,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday.
“I think people have noticed that our government’s approach is always to stay constructive, positive, to engage on the substance of issues, and to demonstrate that we understand that the path forward is one of making sure that there’s a win-win-win on all sides.”
Trump has taken extreme positions on trade for decades, accusing everyone from Japan to Mexico to Canada to China to the European Union of “ripping off” the United States and claiming ever administration before his negotiated bad trade deals.
“I was tired, and I think a lot of other people are tired of watching other people ripping off the United States,” Trump, then just 41, told CNN’s Larry King in 1987. “This is a great country. They laugh at us. Behind our backs, they laugh at us because of our own stupidity.”
There has long been opposition on the left and right to NAFTA and other multilateral trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Trump struck down his first week in office. But the center of gravity in both parties has, for decades, supported multilateral deals that increase the flow of goods and capital across borders.
Trump has upended that bipartisan consensus, preferring bilateral trade deals to the grand multilateral deals pursued by his predecessors and valuing protectionism over free trade.
The administration’s trade policies have set it most at odds with Republican members of Congress. Trump warned lawmakers Saturday to keep their distance.
“Congress should not interfere w/ these negotiations or I will simply terminate NAFTA entirely & we will be far better off,” the president tweeted.