Washington (AFP) - President Donald Trump is considering giving formal notice that the United States is pulling out of the NAFTA free trade agreement with Canada and Mexico, US media reported Wednesday.
A draft executive order is in the final stages of review and could be unveiled this week or next week, two White House officials told Politico.
The proposal will be discussed at a meeting of the National Economic Council on Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal said, citing two people familiar with the discussions.
The media reports said Trump could be threatening to withdraw from NAFTA as part of a strategy to renegotiate the terms of the deal.
Meanwhile, the New York Times quoted a senior administration official as saying Trump is likely to sign such an executive order.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross brushed off the reports as "just a rumor."
"There was a rumor today that there would be an executive order, just a rumor, and my practice is to comment on things we have actually done or are doing as opposed to commenting on rumors," he said.
Trump calls NAFTA, established January 1, 1994, a "disaster" and has pledged to renegotiate the terms or abandon the pact altogether.
NAFTA members must give 90 days' notice for requests to renegotiate and six months' notice to begin the process of withdrawing.
Trump blames NAFTA for the loss of millions of US industrial jobs, mostly to Mexico.
His administration also slapped tariffs in recent days on some imports of Canadian timber and threatened to retaliate against Canadian moves that harm US dairy farmers. Timber and milk, however, are not covered by NAFTA.
The US Grains Council said Wednesday it was "shocked and distressed" by the reports of a possible NAFTA withdrawal.
"Mexico and Canada are among our largest and most loyal grain export markets," it said. "An executive order as reported will have an immediate effect on sales to Mexico, market prices and the profitability of US farmers, who are already facing below cost of production prices. Our top grain market is not a negotiating tactic."
"Before today, we believed we were on track to have a reasonable discussion about how to update the agreement in ways that make sense for all parties. We hope we can get back to that position soon."
The US trade deficit in goods and services last year with Mexico was $62 billion, but with Canada the US had a surplus of $8 billion.