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President Donald Trump said Sunday he wants to wait until after the midterm elections to move forward on a new NAFTA deal with Mexico and Canada, with the parties locked in tough negotiations.
The Congressional midterms are scheduled for Nov. 6, with Democrats poised to gain seats in the House, and possibly retake a majority. Separately, trade tensions between the three NAFTA principals have increased recently, with the U.S. slapped import tariffs on Mexican and Canadian steel and aluminum imports.
Both Mexico and Canada have retaliated with levies on U.S. goods of their own, targeting yogurt, toilet paper, whiskey, apples pork and cheese, among others. The simmering trade disputes have made it even more difficult to strike a new North American accord.
“NAFTA, I could sign it tomorrow, but I’m not happy with it,” Trump told the Fox Business Network in an interview. “I want to make it more fair.”
He added: “I want to wait until after the election. You’re going to have an election. I think it’ll be very interesting. I think it’s going to be fine.
Trump also threatened new levies on car imports: "If they’re not fine, I’m going to tax their cars coming into America. That’s the big one,” he said.
Trump has repeatedly railed against NAFTA, a trade deal signed by the U.S., Canada and Mexico signed in 1993, calling it the worst deal ever. The fight has mirrored his broad skepticism over trade agreements in general, with the president repeatedly citing America's trade deficits as evidence that the world's largest economy is being systematically disadvantaged by its trading partners.
These tensions have increased volatility in financial markets, with U.S. stocks falling more than 1 percent last week. European and Asian equities also fell broadly as the tensions added to market uncertainty.
Still, Trump proclaimed to Fox Business that “I love free trade. When I was at the G-7 I said: ‘I have an idea: Nobody pay any more tax and you take down your barriers," he said. "No barriers, no tax.’ … You know what happened? Everybody said: ‘Can we get on to another subject?’”
The Trump administration has also targeted the European Union on trade, threatening to slap a 20 percent tariff on cars coming to the U.S. from the EU. The U.S. also slapped charges on aluminum and steel imports from Europe.
“The European Union is possibly just as bad as China. They’re just smaller,” Trump told the network. “They treat us very badly. They treat us very unfairly.”
Trump also lashed out at OPEC and the price of oil, and whether the market was being manipulated as crude recently hit its highest in more than 3 years. “OPEC is [manipulating prices], and they better stop it because we're protecting those countries, many of those countries. OPEC is manipulating."
At a meeting last month, OPEC members announced they would increase production, but did not specify by how much. Ahead of that meeting, Trump had urged the cartel to “substantially” increase output, and surprised the world on Saturday by announcing an agreement with Saudi Arabia to pump more oil into markets.
The president also threatened to sanction European companies that did business with Iran.