White House readies executive order to quit NAFTA: report

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President Donald Trump is considering an executive order kicking off U.S. withdrawal from the North American free-trade agreement, Politico and CNN reported Wednesday.
Such an order would not immediately pull the U.S. out of the deal. Instead, it would give Canada and Mexico a six-month notice period of the U.S.’s intent to withdraw, after which it could decide to pull out at any time.
Signing the order could be a negotiating tactic meant to ramp up the pressure on Canada and Mexico and signal to the President’s base that he is serious about taking a tough line on America’s trading partners.
Politico and CNN, both citing unnamed White House officials, said the order has been drafted but not yet finalized. Politico said it was crafted by Peter Navarro, head of the National Trade Council, and Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon. It could be signed later this week or early next.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
The move comes after a week of salvoes from the Trump administration against Canada. Last week in Wisconsin, Mr. Trump laid into Canada’s system of dairy price-fixing, which is keeping American producers out. And Monday, after the Commerce Department levied tariffs against Canadian softwood lumber, the President accused Canada of “taking advantage” of the United States.
“People don’t realize, Canada’s been very rough on the United States. People always think of Canada as being wonderful – so do I, I love Canada – but they’ve outsmarted our politicians for many years,” Mr. Trump said at the White House Tuesday.
Last week, he warned that he would “get rid of NAFTA for once and for all” if Canada and Mexico don’t agree to “very big changes” in the deal.
The Trump administration is expected to formally notify Congress of its intent to renegotiate NAFTA within the next two weeks. That notification would trigger a 90-day countdown to the start of formal talks.
The process reported Wednesday would be separate from that. Under Article 2205 of NAFTA, any country can withdraw after providing six months’ notice to the other two countries. If the U.S. pulled out, NAFTA would remain in force between Canada and Mexico.
Such a unilateral withdrawal would be difficult for the U.S., which depends on numerous integrated supply chains across its borders.
It would also be procedurally difficult. Although Mr. Trump likely could pull the U.S. out of the deal, he would need Congress to approve rolling back its provisions, such as by putting tariffs on Canadian and Mexican goods that are currently exempted.

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