Oregon’s Sen. Ron Wyden had a front row seat on Thursday as President Donald Trump started to make good on his campaign promise to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.
Wyden was one of four congressional leaders from both parties who met with Trump at the White House to discuss trade.
Trump opened the meeting by reiterating his campaign theme that the U.S. is not getting a fair deal in the trade agreement with Mexico and Canada.
“NAFTA has been a catastrophe for our country,” Trump said. “Maybe we do a new NAFTA and we put an extra ‘F’ in the term NAFTA. You know what the F is for, right? Free and fair trade."
Wyden attended the White House meeting with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R - Utah), Rep. Kevin Brady (R - Texas), and Rep. Richard Neal (D - Massachusetts). Wyden and Hatch are the top members on the Senate Finance Committee, while Brady and Neal head the House Ways and Means Committee.
The bulk of the meeting was not open to the press, but in a statement afterwards Wyden left the door open to work with Trump on revising NAFTA.
“As I’ve said many times, NAFTA falls far short of the type of trade policy that can deliver for today’s more modern North American economy,” Wyden said. “It has long been recognized that the trade relationship between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico needs an upgrade.”
Wyden noted that Trump didn’t give specifics about what he’d change with NAFTA or how he’d accomplish it.
Trump announced that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will represent the U.S. in renegotiating NAFTA.
Wyden’s Republican counterpart on the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Orrin Hatch, also said he was open to re-working NAFTA.
“NAFTA has served as strong anchor for our markets in North America,” Hatch said. “Given that the trade pact is now more than two decades old, a reexamination of the agreement to ensure it remains the best possible deal for American workers and entrepreneurs in the 21st century global economy makes sense.”
NAFTA was passed by Congress in 1994 under President Bill Clinton.