U.S. President Donald Trump used his first State of the Union address Tuesday night to reiterate his stand on “unfair trade deals,” which he promised to replace with agreements more favourable to the United States.
Trump didn’t take the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) by name, but railed against deals “that sacrificed our prosperity and shipped away our companies, our jobs, and our Nation’s wealth.”
He added that his administration would fight to negotiate trade deals that “will protect American workers and American intellectual property, through strong enforcement of our trade rules,” and hailed the end of what he termed “the era of economic surrender.”
Trump’s comments came just hours after former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations to offer a spirited defence of NAFTA.
Mulroney said NAFTA benefited both Canada and the U.S., and while he refrained from mentioning Trump by name, insisted that it would be a mistake to scrap the deal, as the president has threatened to do.
Much of Trump’s criticism about the trade deal has centred on concerns about a U.S. trade deficit with Canada and Mexico, meaning the Americans import more than they export.
Should Trump choose to act on his oft-stated threats to pull the U.S. out of NAFTA, he would face resistance from his own party.
On Tuesday, 36 Senate Republicans sent Trump a letter to urge him against abandoning NAFTA, The Hill reported. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was one of the signatories.
Here are Trump’s comments on trade deals from his State of the Union address:
“America has also finally turned the page on decades of unfair trade deals that sacrificed our prosperity and shipped away our companies, our jobs, and our nation’s wealth.
The era of economic surrender is over.
From now on, we expect trading relationships to be fair and to be reciprocal.
We will work to fix bad trade deals and negotiate new ones.
And we will protect American workers and American intellectual property, through strong enforcement of our trade rules.”
— With files from Global News reporter Rebecca Joseph and the Canadian Press