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Donald Trump says back-to-back trade calls from Canada, Mexico ‘an amazing thing’

Trudeau convinces Trump to reconsider NAFTA termination by focusing on long term effects
WATCH ABOVE: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau convinces U.S. President Donald Trump to reconsider NAFTA termination by focusing on long-term effects.

U.S. President Donald Trump said “it was an amazing thing” that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto called 10 minutes apart and asked almost identical questions late last month after the White House said the president was mulling a withdrawal from NAFTA.

“I was going to terminate NAFTA last week, I was all set,” Trump said in an interview with The Economist published Thursday morning.

“I was going to send them a letter … But the word got out, they called and they said, we would really love to … they called separately, but it was an amazing thing. They called separately 10 minutes apart.”

WATCH: White House plays down NAFTA ‘trade war’ with Canada

White House plays down NAFTA ‘trade war’ with Canada
White House plays down NAFTA ‘trade war’ with Canada

During those phone calls, the Canadian and Mexican leaders asked Trump whether he’d be willing to negotiate the tri-partisan trade deal rather than toss it out, the president said.

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Trump’s version of the calls – painting them as purely coincidental – diverges somewhat from a report that the president’s son-in-law appealed to Trudeau and Peña Nieto, setting the wheels in motion.

READ MORE: How Jared Kushner called a Trudeau aide and helped to save NAFTA

Two sources told The Canadian Press this week that Jared Kushner, who’s married to Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, called Trudeau’s chief of staff Katie Telford to say Trump had a few minutes free, if the prime minister might want to call the White House to speak about NAFTA.

Trudeau did just that and highlighted the economic disruption a sudden abandonment of the trade deal could cause. The Mexican president is said to have had a similar conversation and, a few hours later the White House issued a statement saying the president would not withdraw from the deal.

WATCH: Don’t pull out, renegotiate NAFTA, says U.S. Dairy export Council president

Don’t pull out of NAFTA, renegotiate trade agreement: Vilsack
Don’t pull out of NAFTA, renegotiate trade agreement: Vilsack

The Associated Press, meanwhile reported Canada was the first to make a call, reaching out to Kushner to express concerns about the reports that Trump might terminate NAFTA.

Either way, NAFTA experts have said the whole thing was a negotiating tactic – something Trump denied in his Economist interview.

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“I was all set to terminate, you know?” he said. “And this wasn’t like … this wasn’t a game I was playing. I’m not playing … you know, I wasn’t playing chess or poker or anything else.”

WATCH: Trump’s NAFTA turnaround; he now wants to renegotiate the deal

Trump’s NAFTA turnaround; he now wants to renegotiate the deal
Trump’s NAFTA turnaround; he now wants to renegotiate the deal

His 180 – from hopping on the road to terminating NAFTA to agreeing to negotiate within a matter of hours – was a matter of respect, he said.

“Because of my relationship with both of them, I said, I would like to give [negotiating] a try too, that’s fine. I mean, out of respect for them,” Trump said.

“It would have been very disrespectful to Mexico and Canada had I said, ‘I will not.’”

Asked what a “fair NAFTA” would look like, Trump said only he’s anticipating a “massive” renegotiation toward a deal that reduces the trade deficits the U.S. holds with Canada and Mexico.

 

With files from The Canadian Press