Texas Sen. John Cornyn said Tuesday that he thought the Trump administration’s plans for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) were going “in the right direction.” A few hours later, the president once again savaged the 23-year-old agreement designed to enhance trade among the U.S., Mexico and Canada.
The three nations began formal negotiations last week to rework the trade deal that Trump frequently criticized during his campaign as the “worst” in history.
Cornyn, speaking at a Leaders in Government event put on by the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, detailed how he was initia” NAFTA.
“I started to get very nervous, as a Texan, and obviously recognizing the symbiotic relationship we have economically with our neighbor to the south in Mexico,” he said.
Cornyn noted that about 5 million American jobs depend on bi-national trade with Mexico, with many of those jobs in Texas.
“I thought it was really important to help raise the discussion, and have an informed debate about the role of trade in our economy,” he said. “One of the reasons we’re doing better than the rest of the country is we’re the number one exporting state in the United States.
Cornyn said his concern about candidate Trump’s statements were mollified when he spoke with Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and he said the administration’s stance was to “first, do no harm.”
“My blood pressure got back to normal, and I thought, well that’s the right answer,” he said.
Cornyn also noted that after 23 years the agreement does need some updating.
“Whether it’s the energy sector, which has been transformed, where there’s enormous potential between Mexico and the United States and Canada on energy, including exporting energy around the world to our friends and allies, or the digital economy, which really didn’t exist back then, there’s good reasons to update and modernize NAFTA.”
During a rally in Phoenix on Aug. 22, Trump said he thinks the U.S. will “end up probably terminating” the North American Free Trade Agreement “at some point.”
Trump told supporters at the rally that, “Personally, I don’t think we can make a deal because we have been so badly taken advantage of.”
But he cautioned that he has yet to make up his mind.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Cornyn received the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ‘Spirit of Enterprise Award’ for his support of pro-growth policies in Congress.
The meeting was presented by the Kelly Hart law firm and took place at the City Club.
– The Associated Press contributed to this report.