Washington: President Donald Trump is "seriously contemplating" making separate trade deals with Canada and Mexico in place of the two-decade-old North American Free Trade Agreement, and has broached the idea with Ottawa, a White House official said Tuesday.
"He prefers bilateral negotiations and he is looking at two much different countries," Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Fox News.
Canadian and Mexican officials, however, said they remained focused on a three-nation trade deal to revise the 1994 trade pact.
"It is out of the question for now" to conclude a bilateral agreement between Canada and the United States, the senior Canadian official said.
The official downplayed, but did not deny, an earlier a comment that Ottawa was "not ruling out" a separate trade deal with the United States to replace NAFTA.
"We have not reached a point where a request has been made for a bilateral agreement... and we remain strongly focused on a trilateral renegotiation of NAFTA."
Mexico Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said NAFTA had been "highly beneficial" and attracted foreign investors seeking access to the North American market.
"We believe that the agreement would lose value were it to stop being what it is today and we want it to continue to be: a trilateral integration of the continent," he said.
Word of the possible change in strategy comes as Washington faces unified opposition from Group of Seven economies, who have vowed to retaliate against Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs.
Mexico on Tuesday released a more detailed list of specific US products facing retaliatory import duties, including a host of steel products, pork, fruits, cheese and bourbon. APP/AFP