Sen. John Cornyn said Friday he was “concerned” about the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement as the Trump administration continues to press ahead with what he described as “populist impulses.”
The Texas Republican, who serves as the Senate Majority Whip, said during one meeting President Donald Trump raised the possibility of issuing a notice of termination to Mexico and Canada, which would set in motion a U.S. withdrawl.
“I said no, no, no,” Cornyn said at the CERAWeek energy conference, hosted by the consulting firm IHS Markit. “We need to convince him trade deficits aren’t the end all and be all.”
Negotiations on the more than two decade-old trade agreement continue on between the three nations. Trump said at the White House Thursday, “I have a feeling we’re going to make a deal on NAFTA” before adding that if no agreement could be reached, “then we’re going to terminate NAFTA and we’ll start all over again or we’ll just do it a different way.”
Such comments have stoked fears in Texas’s oil and gas industry that the movement of oil and natural gas across both the Mexican and Canadian borders could be interrupted. And now with Trump putting tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum, the prospects of a trade war developing are rising.
During his appearance, Cornyn said he worried about the departure of National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn.
“I’m sorry to see Mr. Cohn leave and the ascent of [Trump adviser Peter] Navarro, who I think has a lot of wrong ideas,” he said. “The president needs advice and it can’t be one side of the equation.”
But Cornyn and Sen. Lisa Murkowksi, R-Alaska, who also appeared at CERA, said the administration had changed “everything” for the U.S. energy sector by pulling back environmental regulation and reducing tax rates.