WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump is "seriously considering" seeking separate trade talks with Canada and Mexico but he doesn't plan to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said.
"His preference now, he asked me to convey this, is to actually negotiate with Mexico and Canada separately," Kudlow said Tuesday during an interview on Fox News. "I know this is just three countries but still, you know, oftentimes when you have to compromise with a whole bunch of countries you get the worst of the deals."
Kudlow's comments suggest Trump is serious about the position he staked out Friday, when he floated the idea of pursuing bilateral pacts with the NAFTA partners in response to questions from reporters about the status of negotiations. Canada and Mexico have said they are committed to keeping the 1994 trade agreement a trilateral accord, while Trump has punctuated the talks under way since August with regular threats to withdraw altogether.
Trump doesn't plan to quit NAFTA, Kudlow said on Tuesday.
"The president's not going to leave NAFTA. He's not going to withdraw from NAFTA," said Kudlow. "He's just going to try a different approach. I can't offer timing here, but judging from what he told us yesterday, I think he'd like to start that approach rather quickly."
Negotiators have reached agreement on about nine of 30 chapters for an updated NAFTA, and the United States had been pushing to get a deal passed in this Congress, which would require an agreement around now. A key Republican senator, John Cornyn said on Monday that window is now closed and talks are expected to proceed more slowly going forward.