Thu Apr 27, 2017 5:43AM
US President Donald Trump (right) and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on February 13, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
US President Donald Trump (right) and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on February 13, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

US President Donald Trump has agreed not to immediately terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico, the White House says. 

Trump made the decision of not pulling out of the deal “at this time” during phone calls with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on Wednesday, according to a White House a statement.

"Both conversations were pleasant and productive. President Trump agreed not to terminate NAFTA at this time and the leaders agreed to proceed swiftly, according to their required internal procedures, to enable the renegotiation of the NAFTA deal to the benefit of all three countries," the statement said.

The White House announcement came after reports in the Politico and New York Times suggested that Trump prepared a draft notice showing his possible plan to leave the trade agreement, which is intended to guarantee tariff-free trade between the three countries.

Trump’s Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross denounced the media reports as "rumor" late on Wednesday.

"There was a rumor today that there would be an executive order, just a rumor, and my practice is to comment on things we have actually done or are doing as opposed to commenting on rumors," he said.

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Trump has time and again criticized NAFTA, established January 1, 1994, calling it a catastrophe and the “single worst trade deal ever approved” by the US. He has vowed to renegotiate the terms or abandon the pact altogether.

Trump has argued that it has led to the outsourcing of thousands of jobs from the United States to Mexico and China.

Canada has indicated that it is open to renegotiations, with Prime Minister Trudeau pledging to work closely with the new US president on the trade deal.

“If the Americans want to talk about NAFTA, I'm more than happy to talk about it,” he said in November.

Trump and Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto arrive for a press conference at the Los Pinos presidential residence in Mexico City on Wednesday, August 30, 2016. (Photo by Reuters)

Mexico, however, has taken a slightly different line on the issue, saying it is ready to “modernize” NAFTA rather than renegotiate it.

“We think it is an opportunity to think if we should modernize it, not renegotiate it, but to modernize it,” said Mexico's Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu.

NAFTA was first proposed by the administration of former President George H.W. Bush and was finalized by his successor Bill Clinton.

Trump threatened in the buildup to the November 8 presidential election that he would withdraw the US from the pact “If we don't get the deal we want.”