In an interview on "Squawk Box," Bill Daley, who helped lead the fight to pass NAFTA in 1993, said Trump's sweeping changes to the trade deal are likely to be minor.
"Trade is an integral part of our foreign policy," Daley said. "Obviously, the president wants to build a wall, he wants to deport all sorts of people back and blah, blah, blah."
Daley said those actions will influence Mexico's position on renegotiation. "You can't separate it," he said.
Daley, a White House chief of staff under former President Barack Obama, said he thinks it's time for the North American Free Trade Agreement to be updated. However, he said a Trump "update" to the trade deal would be a step back from his tough campaign talk on withdrawing from the agreement.
"Obviously, in a campaign people say lots of things that they find, when they get in the office, life's a little different," he said. "I think it's a good sign that Wilbur Ross is there trying to renegotiate it."
The Trump administration had been mulling an executive order on withdrawing from the trade pact with Mexico and Canada. Despite earlier assertions to pull out, Trump backtracked on Wednesday, saying he would seek to renegotiate NAFTA. The reversal came after he spoke by phone with Mexican President
Enrique Pena Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
On Thursday, Commerce Secretary Ross told CNBC that Canada and Mexico are ready to start negotiations. "If we could only get Congress to release the 90-day letter, we'll be going on our side as well," he added, referring to the 90 days notice that must be given before beginning formal talks on NAFTA.
—CNBC's Matthew J. Belvedere contributed to this report.