Donald Trump made an Oval Office announcement regarding a new trade agreement with Mexico on Monday morning, as The Washington Post reported, and though the details of what Trump and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto agreed upon were vague, the announcement started with an even more unusual moment as Trump attempted to connect with Peña Nieto by speakerphone.
Trump fumbled with the speakerphone for several awkward moments before an aide came to the rescue, finally enabling Trump to speak with the Mexican president through a translator who was also on the speakerphone. Why the speakerphone call was not already connected prior to Trump’s beginning the Oval Office press event was not explained.
Watch the video of Trump’s attempt to speak with the President of Mexico via speaker phone below on this page.
The trade announcement itself also appeared awkward, as Trump began — once Peña Nieto was on the phone — by announcing that he would no longer use the term “NAFTA” (North American Free Trade Agreement) and would refer to the trade deal as “the United States/Mexico Trade Agreement,” as Bloomberg News reported, because NAFTA “has a bad connotation because the United States was hurt very badly by NAFTA for many years.”
Can't stop watching Trump trying to get the President of Mexico on speakerphone. (via CBS) pic.twitter.com/1KDrFHV2qp— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) August 27, 2018
But the Mexican president repeatedly reminded Trump that Canada must be part of the trade negotiations, telling Trump that he is “quite hopeful” Canada will soon be included. Trump replied that he would speak with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “in a little while.”
“As far as Canada’s concerned, we haven’t started with Canada yet. We wanted to do Mexico,” Trump said, according to Toronto Star correspondent Daniel Dale. Dale added on his Twitter feed that U.S. trade negotiators “have been negotiating with Canada for a year.”
Trump also threatened the Canadians with new trade sanctions, saying, “The easiest thing we can do is tariff their cars coming in…it’s a very simple negotiation, it could end in one day.”
Trump also said that the negotiations with Canada will be “smaller” because Mexico is a larger trading partner. But in fact, as Dale noted, “U.S. trade with Canada was more than $50 billion larger than U.S. trade with Mexico last year.”
“I think it’s appalling that Canada has been kept at arm’s length from these talks over the past number of weeks,” Larry Herman, a former trade negotiator for Canada, told The Washington Post.
Trump also said he would “terminate” the existing NAFTA deal, Fox News reported, though he would likely require the approval of Congress to do so.