Trump floats replacing NAFTA with bilateral agreements with Canada, Mexico

WASHINGTON _ U.S. President Donald Trump says he’d prefer to see separate bilateral trade deals with Canada and Mexico instead of the current North American Free Trade Agreement.

Trump says _ as he has many times before _ that NAFTA has been a terrible deal for the United States, while its North American trading partners make “many billions of dollars” at the expense of Americans.

And he suggested Friday that the idea of a trilateral trade deal doesn’t make sense _ a notion he has floated before as a possibility, should the current NAFTA talks fail to reach a consensus.

“To be honest with you, I wouldn’t mind seeing NAFTA where you’d go by a different name, where you’d make a separate deal with Canada and a separate deal with Mexico,” he said Friday after a meeting with North Korean officials.

“You’re talking about a very different two countries. I wouldn’t mind seeing a separate deal with Canada where you have one type of product … and a separate deal with Mexico.”

NAFTA, he repeated, has been “a lousy deal for the United States from Day 1.”

“We lose a lot of money with Canada and we lose a fortune with Mexico. But it’s not going to happen like that anymore.”

Trump also defended his decision to hit Canada, Mexico and the European Union with hefty steel and aluminum tariffs, a move that some observers say has made the efforts to rescue NAFTA that much more of an uphill climb.

Canada retaliated for the tariffs Thursday with $16.6 billion worth of “countermeasures” that hit a range of products from flat-rolled steel to playing cards, while Mexico also plans tariffs on a variety of U.S. products, including flat steel.

“If you take the European Union and you see the kind of tariff they charge, and then we don’t, that’s called not fair trade,” Trump said.

“I like free trade, but I want fair trade. At a minimum, I want fair trade.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told the House of Commons on Friday that Canada plans to appeal the tariff decision to the World Trade Organization as well as under NAFTA, calling them “illegal.”