PHOENIX — President Donald Trump's comments at a Phoenix rally that he will probably end up terminating the North American Free Trade Agreement brought cheers from the crowd but groans from the state's top business group.
Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Glenn Hamer posted a video calling any termination a "terrible mistake" within hours of Trump's remarks Tuesday night. Hamer is in Mexico on a trade mission with a bipartisan delegation of about two dozen state lawmakers.
"It would be a mistake that the administration would feel each and every day," Hamer said. "And why would that be? The administration has set a noble goal of 3 per cent growth. You can't get there if your start unraveling trade agreements.
"You need good tax policy, you need good regulatory policy and you need good trade policy," he said,
Trump said at the campaign-style rally that he believes Mexico and Canada are coming out ahead on the 23-year-old trade agreement. Renegotiations began in recent weeks.
"Personally, I don't think we can make a deal, because we have been so badly taken advantage of," Trump said. "I think we'll end up probably terminating NAFTA at some point, OK? Probably.
Republican Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain have called for modernizing an agreement they say has brought huge benefits for Arizonans.
Flake has put on a full court press in recent months, launched an effort in May to highlight what he calls the agreement's "huge boon to Arizona and the U.S." He's put out videos featuring people and businesses that have benefited from the trade pact.
On Wednesday, he said he won't stop that effort.
"I will continue to speak up for the countless Arizonans whose jobs and businesses rely on the billions of dollars that NAFTA injects into our state's economy," Flake said in a statement.
Bob Christie, The Associated Press