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Trump considers terminating NAFTA, reaffirms building of southern border wall
U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday that the United States would probably terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and reaffirmed the building of a southern border wall with Mexico.
"Personally, I don't think we can make a deal ... I think we'll end up probably terminating NAFTA at some point," Trump told the crowd in a prime-time address on Tuesday evening at the "Make America Great Again" rally in Phoenix, Arizona.
Trump said he doubted the United States can reach a deal with Canada and Mexico over the renegotiation of NAFTA, which came into force on Jan. 1, 1994 and has greatly benefited the three countries' economies.
On Sunday, the three parties wrapped up the first round of renegotiations on the trilateral trading bloc in Washington D.C., pledging to continue a rapid pace of talks in the coming months to update the 23-year-old trade deal.
The renegotiation comes as a pillar of Trump's "America First" agenda, which aims to reverse America's huge trade deficit and curb the outflow of America's manufacturing jobs.
"We are already in a negotiation. Mexico will remain at the table with serenity, firmness and with the national interest ahead," Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray tweeted after Trump's speech.
"Every country benefits from each other, so why change something that has been working for so many years?" Antonio Valenzuela, a resident on the U.S.-Mexico border, told Xinhua.
"There should not been any changes to it (NAFTA), because it will only affect the economies of the three partners," he added.
The extremely hot Arizona weather did not faze Trump's supporters. Around twenty thousand supporters lined up outside the Phoenix Convention Center hours ahead of the rally, while thousands of protesters also gathered nearby.
Thirty-one-year-old Joseph Cririlla, who lives in the suburbs of Phoenix, said he came to the venue at about 2 a.m. local time (0900 GMT), but he was not the first person in line. Somebody had already come at midnight and spent the night, he said.
"I'm a Republican," said the computer engineer, who had immigrated from Colombia to the United States at the age of three. "We are not racists, KKK; we are true-heart patriots."
"The crowds were so big, almost as big as tonight," Trump responded to cheers of his name from the audience, recalling Arizona as the site of his first campaign rally.
During Tuesday's rally, Trump also threatened to shut down the U.S. federal government if Congress does not present him with a spending bill for the next fiscal year that includes funding for a wall on the southern border.
"The obstructionist Democrats would like us not to do it, but believe me, if we have to close down our government, we're building that wall," Trump said to the crowd.
He also accused Democrats of "putting all of Americans' safety at risk" for not supporting his controversial border wall proposal to stop immigrants from Mexico.
The president promised to build his signature wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, calling it "absolutely necessary."
He visited the border region on early Tuesday in Yuma, Arizona.
"Build that wall! Build that wall!" Trump supporters chanted at the convention center, holding signs such as "Buy American, Hire American."
Trump promised to "crack down" on sanctuary cities. A "sanctuary" city is one where police or municipal employees are prohibited from inquiring about one's immigration status, and often do not use municipal funds to enforce federal immigration laws.
Regarding the wall, Valenzuela said, "There is already a wall on the border, so why build a new one? A new administration and a new president do not mean you have to change everything."
Moreover, Trump spent the first half of the rally defending his response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, saying the "dishonest" media had not reported fairly on his comments.
"Did they report that I said racism is evil?" Trump asked.
Trump came under attack after stating that "many sides" displayed violence in the town which claimed three lives. He clarified later that white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan were among the groups that instigated the violence.
"I strongly condemn neo-Nazis, white Supremacists and the KKK," Trump said. "I hit them with neo-Nazi. I hit them with everything. KKK? We have KKK. I got them all," he added.
He also blamed U.S. media for dividing the nation, saying "they are trying to take away our history and our heritage."
Trump called out the "failing New York Times" and labeled The Washington Post as a "lobbying tool" for Amazon. Upon the mention of CNN, the crowd responded with chants of "CNN sucks!"
"While being broadcast live on camera, President Trump claims media cameras are being turned off," CNN responded on Twitter.
"Trump claims media are fake news. It's ridiculous. Fake news is fake news. Fake news is news coming from Trump Tower," Robin Kent, a 64-year-old retired resident, told Xinhua.
When it came to the Korean nuclear issue, Trump voiced optimism over improvements in U.S. relations with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) amid the escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula as Pyongyang and Washington have repeatedly engaged in heated exchanges.
Although the tensions show some signs of abating, the nuclear crisis remains a potential threat that will undermine regional stability.
"I respect the fact that he is starting to respect us. And maybe -- probably not, but maybe -- something positive can come about," Trump said about the DPRK leader Kim Jong Un.
After the over-an-hour-long speech, police tried to disperse the protesters with tear gas. At least three were arrested in connection with the Phoenix rally, according to local media reports.
About 4,500 people said on Facebook that they had attended Protest Trump Downtown Phoenix, an anti-Trump rally, less than a block from the convention center. In a separate post, about 3,000 people said they went to attend a "White Supremacy Will Not Be Pardoned" event downtown organized by the Puente Human Rights Movement, a local immigrant rights group.
[Source: Xinhua, Phoenix, US, 23Aug17]
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