Trump publicly claimed Thursday that his phone calls with Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau persuaded him to give negotiations a chance.
But a senior administration official said Trump had already decided to hold off on signing the NAFTA termination letter before his phone calls with Mexico and Canada.
In the interview, Trump recounted his internal deliberations: “In one way, I like the termination. In the other way, I like them — a lot, both of them. We have a very good relationship. And it’s very hard when you have a relationship, it’s very much something that would not be a nice act. It would not be exactly a friendly act.”
But, the president added, he reserves the right to change his mind. “I can always terminate,” Trump said. “They called me up, they said, ‘Could we try negotiating?’ I said, ‘Absolutely, yes.’ If we can’t come to a satisfactory conclusion, we’ll terminate NAFTA.”
All of this goes to how up for grabs Trump is, even on what has been a core issue for him. Has an administration ever staked out such a bold position on as consequential an issue as NAFTA termination and then back-tracked so swiftly in one day?