Ten American and foreign automakers went to the White House on Friday to push for a weakening of U.S. fuel efficiency standards through 2025, while President Donald Trump used the occasion to launch a fresh attack on the North American Free Trade Agreement that has benefited the companies.
A draft proposal circulated by the U.S. Transportation Department would freeze fuel efficiency requirements at 2020 levels through 2026, rather than allowing them to increase as previously planned. Trump’s administration is expected to formally unveil the proposal later this month or in June.
“We’re working on CAFE standards, environmental controls,” Trump told reporters at the top of the meeting, referring to the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards for cars and light trucks in the United States.
Trump said he wants automakers to build more vehicles in the United States and export more vehicles.
But much of the hour-long meeting focused on NAFTA. Trump blasted the pact involving the United States, Canada and Mexico as “terrible” and noted that negotiations to make changes sought by his administration were ongoing.
“NAFTA has been a horrible, horrible disaster for this country and we’ll see if we can make it reasonable,” Trump said.
Automakers have called NAFTA a success, allowing them to integrate production throughout North America and make production competitive with Asia and Europe, and have noted the increase in auto production over the past two decades with the deal in place. They have warned that changing NAFTA too much could prompt some companies to move production out of the United States.