Mexico downplays Trump's latest NAFTA threat: 'That's his style'

Mexico City (AFP) –


Mexico on Wednesday downplayed Donald Trump's latest threat to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement, which its foreign minister put down to the US President's "peculiar" negotiating style.

Trump took his latest stab at the trade agreement with Mexico and Canada at a rally Tuesday in Phoenix, Arizona, telling a crowd of fervid supporters the US will "end up probably terminating NAFTA at some point."

"Personally, I don't think we can make a deal. Because we have been so badly taken advantage of. They have made such great deals -- both of the countries, but in particular Mexico -- that I don't think we can make a deal," he said to cheers.

"But we're gonna see what happens, OK? You're in good hands."

Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray dismissed that as posturing.

"President Trump is negotiating. He's a negotiator with a peculiar style, a well-known style about which he has even published books. And what he is doing is negotiating," he said in an interview with Mexican TV network Televisa.

At Trump's behest, the United States, Mexico and Canada began renegotiating the 23-year-old trade deal last week.

Trump has repeatedly called the agreement a "disaster" that has sent American jobs to Mexico.

Mexico -- which depends heavily on the deal, selling 80 percent of its exports to the US -- is not interested in sweeping changes.

Videgaray said Trump's "colorful tone" on NAFTA and other issues was more about the US leader's domestic political problems.

Trump, whose agenda has been overshadowed by controversy, legislative missteps and personnel losses at the White House, also threatened during his Phoenix speech to shut down the federal government if Congress does not fund his planned wall on the Mexican border.

"It's a complex political moment. He's speaking to his political base," said Videgaray.

"There will be tweets, there will be speeches like this," he said of the NAFTA renegotiations, which head for a second round in Mexico from September 1 to 5.

"It's not something that should surprise us. It's something we should anticipate."

Videgaray, who has ties to Trump's influential son-in-law Jared Kushner, has tried to mediate the newly explosive US-Mexican relationship, starting back when Trump was a candidate and Videgaray set up a meeting between him and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.