Trump teases ‘big news’ for U.S. auto workers, suggests NAFTA link

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly pledged to revive American manufacturing, said on Wednesday that “big news” was coming that would be welcomed by U.S. auto workers, and he suggested it was somehow linked to NAFTA trade talks.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at the Susan B. Anthony List 11th Annual Campaign for Life Gala at the National Building Museum in Washington, U.S., May 22, 2018. REUTERS/Al Drago

“There will be big news coming soon for our great American Autoworkers. After many decades of losing your jobs to other countries, you have waited long enough!” Trump said in a tweet.

Auto trade has been one of the biggest obstacles in negotiating an update to the North American Free Trade Agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico. Trump has threatened to scrap the pact, which has been in place for two decades.

Asked about NAFTA and automakers before departing the White House for an event in New York, Trump told reporters the trade talks had been tough but that U.S. auto workers would be happy, appearing to draw a link between the two.

“NAFTA is very difficult. Mexico has been very difficult to deal with. Canada has been very difficult to deal with. They have been taking advantage of the United States for a long time. I am not happy with their requests. But I will tell you in the end we win, we will win and we’ll win big,” he said.

He then called Mexico and Canada “spoiled” and said what they had asked for was “not fair.”

“But I will tell you our auto workers are going to be extremely happy.”

Asked earlier about the tweet, the White House declined to comment, and the office of the U.S. Trade Representative referred queries to the White House.

Automakers had scrambled after the tweet to get details, with some speculating that Trump could be referring to trade with the European Union. In a meeting earlier this month with major automakers, Trump threatened to impose big tariffs on EU-built vehicles, according to three people briefed on the talks.

As for NAFTA, the United States and Mexico have deadlocked over U.S. demands for wage increases in the auto sector and for a boost in the North American content in cars. Last week, the top U.S. trade official said the three countries were “nowhere close to a deal.”

At the same time, Washington and South Korea are working to finalize language in an updated U.S.-Korean Free Trade Agreement. Trump hinted at the possibility of “good news” on trade with South Korea during a meeting on Tuesday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

“We will have some pretty good news, I think, on trade,” he told reporters as the two leaders sat down.

Additional reporting by Makini Brice, David Shepardson and David Lawder; writing by Lisa Lambert; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Jeffrey Benkoe

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