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Trump at a rally in Iowa. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The White House will never admit this publicly, but the president is developing a softer attitude towards the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Five sources who've spoken privately with Trump about NAFTA say he's taking more seriously the risks of withdrawing the U.S. from the trade deal with Canada and Mexico.

A conga-line of Republican senators have met with the president and explained to him why they consider NAFTA so important to their states. Two arguments have helped change Trump's thinking:

  • Withdrawing from NAFTA might interrupt the stock market's record-breaking run under his presidency. When it comes to bragging rights, Trump views the Dow Jones Industrial average as a useful substitute for his poll numbers. Though he told the WSJ that he thought U.S. markets would go up if he terminated NAFTA, sources who've spoken with the president say that privately he’s less certain of that — and is loathe to jeopardize the stock market’s record-breaking streak.
  • Withdrawing from NAFTA would harm farmers and agricultural communities — whom Trump considers "my people."

Trump made two telling comments this week, which were buried under the deluge of porn star and "shithole" news:

  • He told a group of farmers in Nashville — an audience adorned with “I support NAFTA” pins — “On NAFTA, I’m working very hard to get a better deal for our country and for our farmers and for our manufacturers...It’s not the easiest negotiation, but we’re going to make it fair for you people again.” That's a much gentler tone than Trump usually uses to discuss the deal.
  • He told the WSJ this: “I would rather be able to negotiate [NAFTA]. We’ve made a lot of headway. We’re moving along nicely. Bob Lighthizer and others are working very hard, and we’ll see what happens.”

Why this matters: The White House will never publicly admit Trump is shying away from terminating NAFTA because a key part of his and Lighthizer’s negotiating strategy is to convince Canada and Mexico that he's about to withdraw. Trump has even discussed issuing a six-month NAFTA withdrawal notice as a way to gain leverage. But from our vantage point — at least under this president — NAFTA has never looked safer.

One cautionary note: With this president, nothing is ever off the table. And nobody close to Trump ever feels 100 percent secure when it comes to trade.

Go deeper

8 hours ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.

8 hours ago - World

France recalls ambassadors from U.S. and Australia over submarine deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), and French ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

France has taken the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after both countries blindsided their French allies with a new military pact and submarine contract, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

The backstory: While sealing an agreement with the U.S. and U.K. to acquire nuclear submarines, Australia ripped up an existing $90 billion submarine deal with France. That led senior French officials to accuse the U.S. of a "stab in the back."

Updated 9 hours ago - World

In reversal, Pentagon now says drone strike killed 10 Afghan civilians

Caskets for the dead are carried towards the gravesite as relatives and friends attend a mass funeral for members of a family that is said to have been killed in a U.S. drone airstrike, in Kabul on Aug. 30. Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A U.S. drone strike launched on Aug. 29 killed 10 civilians in Afghanistan, including seven children, rather than the Islamic State extremists the Biden administration claimed it targeted, the Pentagon said Friday.

Why it matters: U.S. Central Command said at the time that officials "know" the drone strike "disrupted an imminent ISIS-K threat" to Kabul's airport, and that they were "confident we successfully hit the target."