Here's how Donald Trump's White House went behind his back on NAFTA

Trump's staffers, including Kushner, tried to undermine him on trade policy — while making him look like a winner

By Matthew Rozsa

Published May 9, 2017 1:57PM (EDT)

 (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

Last month, President Donald Trump claimed that he had "received calls from the President of Mexico and the Prime Minister of Canada asking to renegotiate NAFTA rather than terminate." From the way he described the conversations, it had given the clear impression that they had felt compelled to reach out to him about negotiating a fairer deal as a result of pressure from the White House regarding its dissatisfaction with NAFTA.

Now it is being reported that some of Trump's own White House staffers may have undermined his trade policies behind his back.

In order to stop Trump from pulling America out of NAFTA, White House staffers contacted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with the message that he needed to persuade Trump against pulling out of that free trade deal, according to a report by Canada's National Post.


One of those staffers was Jared Kushner, according to the Toronto Metro.

This was prompted by a reported executive order drafted by White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and National Trade Council Director Peter Navarro that would have started the process of withdrawing America from NAFTA. Although it was unclear whether Trump actually planned on pulling America out of the organization or merely drafted the order to obtain leverage, the concern was great enough among some of his staffers that they reached out to Trudeau for assistance.

One senior Canadian diplomatic source told the National Post that "you never know how much of it is theatre, but it didn’t feel that way. Maybe they’re just learning how to be a government. At least they were open to the conversation, and that stopped them doing something rash and destructive."

Either way, Trump eventually spoke to both Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and changed his mind on NAFTA, telling reporters that "I like both these gentlemen very much. I respect their countries very much. The relationship is very special. And I said, I will hold on the termination — let’s see if we can make it a fair deal."


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Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Canada Donald Trump Enrique Pena Nieto Justin Trudeau Mexico Nafta Partner Video