Trump: “I thought it would be easier”

President Donald Trump seems to be on a bit of a learning curve. Any new president is. Especially any new president with no previous experience as an elected representative, taking on one of the most powerful and most responsible and most complex and difficult jobs in the world.

Especially when he appears to have not expected to win until late in the campaign, and seems to have been terribly unprepared for what he was taking on.

That’s a couple of examples of Donald learning things that should be obvious to most people.

More in The education of Donald Trump

The 70-year-old leader of the free world sat behind his desk in the Oval Office last Friday afternoon, doing what he’s done for years: selling himself. His 100th day in office was approaching, and Trump was eager to reshape the hardening narrative of a White House veering off course.

So he took it upon himself to explain that his presidency was actually on track, inviting a pair of POLITICO reporters into the Oval Office for an impromptu meeting.

It was classic Trump: Confident, hyperbolic and insistent on asserting control.

But interviews with nearly two dozen aides, allies, and others close to the president paint a different picture – one of a White House on a collision course between Trump’s fixed habits and his growing realization that this job is harder than he imagined when he won the election on Nov. 8.

So far, Trump has led a White House gripped by paranoia and insecurity, paralyzed by internal jockeying for power.

As president, Trump has repeatedly reminded his audiences, both public and private, about his longshot electoral victory. That unexpected win gave him and his closest advisers the false sense that governing would be as easy to master as running a successful campaign turned out to be. It was a rookie mistake.

“I think he’s much more aware how complicated the world is,” said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who serves as an informal administration adviser.

No single day was more telling about the ambiguity of Trumpism than April 12. It was that day that Trump not-so-quietly reversed himself on at least four of his campaign promises. He canceled a federal hiring freeze imposed in his first week. He flipped on labeling China a currency manipulator. He endorsed the Export-Import bank that he had called to eliminate. He declared NATO relevant, after trashing it repeatedly on the campaign trail.

“I said it was obsolete,” Trump said. “It is no longer obsolete.”

Trump’s critics and supporters alike are equally flummoxed about what this president stands for.

Apart from trying to win ratings and praise Trump probably doesn’t know what he stands for either.

“I kind of pooh-poohed the experience stuff when I first got here,” one White House official said of these early months. “But this shit is hard.”

Not just Trump caught out by what work is involved.

As Trump is beginning to better understand the challenges—and the limits—of the presidency, his aides are understanding better how to manage perhaps the most improvisational and free-wheeling president in history. “If you’re an adviser to him, your job is to help him at the margins,” said one Trump confidante. “To talk him out of doing crazy things.”

Interviews with White House officials, friends of Trump, veterans of his campaign and lawmakers paint a picture of a White House that has been slow to adapt to the demands of the most powerful office on earth.

Advisers have tried to curtail Trump’s idle hours, hoping to prevent him from watching cable news or calling old friends and then tweeting about it. That only works during the workday, though—Trump’s evenings and weekends have remained largely his own.

“It’s not like the White House doesn’t have a plan to fill his time productively but at the end of the day he’s in charge of his schedule,” said one person close to the White House. “He does not like being managed.”

He doesn’t seem to like working particularly hard either.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has developed a ritual of sorts: Just before going onstage for his televised briefings, he usually walks down the hall to the Oval Office to ask Trump what he wants to hear on TV that day. Cable news only occasionally carried press briefings from Obama’s secretaries in the later years of his presidency, but Spicer’s almost-daily outings have become a regular, wall-to-wall fixture.

His sessions with Trump were described by people familiar with them as part pep talk and part talking-point seminar. In the early days, Trump criticized Spicer fiercely, prompting him to upgrade his delivery at the podium as well as his wardrobe of suits. Now, people close to the president say, Trump brags about Spicer’s ratings.

More interested in perceptions of popularity rather than credibility.

If the goal of most administrations has been to set the media agenda for the day, it’s often the reverse in Trump’s White House, where what the president hears on the cable morning gabfests on Fox News, MSNBC and CNN can redirect his attention, schedule and agenda. The three TVs in the chief-of-staff’s office sometimes dictate the 8 a.m. meeting – and are always turned on to cable news, West Wing officials say.

Since taking office, Trump has 16 times tagged Fox and Friends, the network’s morning show, in his tweets, and countless other times weighed in on whatever they were talking about on air. After Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings went on Morning Joe and asked the president to call him, Trump did. After Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher defended Trump in an early Saturday morning Fox News hit, Trump called him moments later, inviting him to an Oval Office meeting. And after news segments, Trump will sometimes call his own advisers to discuss what he saw.

The reality presidency.

“Trump is a guy of action. He likes to move,” said Chris Ruddy, a close friend. “He doesn’t necessarily worry about all the collateral damage or the consequences.”

Who doesn’t care about damage or consequences.

Trump may be learning and adjusting. But he is still Trump. On Saturday, he’ll celebrate his 100th day in office by boycotting the traditional White House Correspondents’ Dinner in favor of a rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The rallies, which remind him of the campaign trail, often improve his mood, several people close to him say. “I will be holding a BIG rally in Pennsylvania,” he tweeted by way of announcement. “Look forward to it!”

Trump seems to be doing as many interviews as he can fit in to his not very busy schedule outside publicity seeking.

He has also just done one with Reuters: Exclusive: ‘If there’s a shutdown, there’s a shutdown,’ Trump says

President Donald Trump downplayed the severity of a potential government shutdown on Thursday, just two days shy of a deadline for Congress to reach a spending deal to avert temporary layoffs of federal workers.

“We’ll see what happens. If there’s a shutdown, there’s a shutdown,” Trump told Reuters in an interview, adding that Democrats would be to blame if the federal government was left unfunded.

Don’t worry, just blame someone else.

Exclusive: Trump complains Saudis not paying fair share for U.S. defense

“Frankly, Saudi Arabia has not treated us fairly, because we are losing a tremendous amount of money in defending Saudi Arabia,” he said.

“Nobody’s going to mess with Saudi Arabia because we’re watching them,” Trump told a campaign rally in Wisconsin a year ago. “They’re not paying us a fair price. We’re losing our shirt.”

Reuters: Trump says ‘major, major’ conflict with North Korea possible, but seeks diplomacy

“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely,” Trump told Reuters in an Oval Office interview ahead of his 100th day in office on Saturday.

“We’d love to solve things diplomatically but it’s very difficult,” he said.

Something else he is finding difficult.

Reuters: Trump says he thought being president would be easier than his old life

President Donald Trump on Thursday reflected on his first 100 days in office with a wistful look at his life before the White House.

“I loved my previous life. I had so many things going,” Trump told Reuters in an interview. “This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”

Trump seems to think he is there for the adoring accolades, to be praised and revered. And he will keep watching TV until he sees it happen, it seems.

It’s hard to see how he will last out four years.

It may not matter, the world may not get to last that long.

Immigrant to Little, Ardern…

An immigrant who owns a restaurant in Auckland and knows both Andrew Little and Jacinda Ardern has a public message for them via The Spinoff: Andrew Little is a regular at my restaurant. Here’s what I’d like to say to him about immigration

Israeli-born Yael Shochat is the owner of much-loved Fort St institution Ima Cuisine. She writes about the essential role immigration plays in her restaurant – and why the Labour leader’s vow to slash immigrant numbers by ‘tens of thousands’ has her deeply worried.

To Mr Andrew Little, and to dear Jacinda, whom I consider a friend: you’ve been to my restaurant, Ima Cuisine, many times. You’ve shared my company and enjoyed my most beloved dishes – immigrant food from all over the Jewish diaspora, and Palestinian food, the indigenous cuisine of my country. What are we going to say to each other next time you come in? Are you going to give “compliments to the chefs”, half of whom are not welcome here under your immigration policy? Am I welcome here? I certainly don’t feel welcome now that you’ve promised to cut “tens of thousands” of immigrants.

Your immigration policy (and the policy of the Greens and the National party) is based on racist tropes and stereotypes. Anti immigration sentiment is built on myths that don’t add up. We migrants are “lazy”, sucking up resources and putting a strain on the welfare system, and at the same time we work too hard – we are “stealing” jobs from “ordinary New Zealanders”.

This is false. Immigrants are largely young (considering we have an aging population this can’t be a bad thing), fit, and keen to work to better their lives. They are good people, they are healthy and they are paying tax. They are not a drain on society, they are holding it up! The jobs they are “stealing” are usually the ones Kiwis don’t want – low-paying and physically demanding. This unfortunately makes migrants more easily exploited by employers; that was certainly the case for some of my staff before they came to me.

She explains what she thinks Little’s suggested slashing of immigration will do.

Right now I, my friends and peers in the restaurant industry are all crying out for kitchen and wait staff. Stopping immigration – while refusing to actually address the underlying causes of problems in the job and housing market – will mean I won’t be able to hire anyone. I won’t be able to cook for you anymore. Many other industries will also suffer.

Stopping immigration won’t solve our problems but it will create more. Stopping immigration will divide our country and make it less safe.

Policies such as yours are dog whistles, mostly inaudible messages of demonisation and othering used for political gain.

If today it is the case that even the left can be covertly racist, we are emboldening more overtly racist individuals, leaving them more space to spread their hatred and their violence.

I understand that you are desperate for more votes this election, and sure, blaming immigrants for the ills of society is an easy way of getting them. So shift the blame on us as many have done before you. I just hope you’re ready to face the consequences.

I hope Team Little-Ardern do what they can to avoid the consequences by rethinking their stance on immigration and coming out with some actual policy that doesn’t harm those who have already come here and added value to New Zealand.

And more than Little and Ardern – immigration without discrimination and ostracisation is necessary for New Zealand to thrive as a compassionate and thriving multi-cultural country.

Principles of immigration

: “From my column today. Is there anyone who disagrees with this par (about how an immigration debate should be conducted)?”

  1. Let the first principle be this: Anyone who is already here is as Kiwi as Richie McCaw.
  2. Let the second be this: those of us who are already here get to decide who else joins us. There is no moral obligation to accept immigration.
  3. Let us also accept that the 800,000 New Zealanders abroad are entitled to come home whenever they want.
  4. Presumably also, none of our political parties is proposing ending the right of access for Australians to live or work in New Zealand, or to cut refugee numbers from the 876 who arrived in the year to June.

There’s a few contentious aspects to that.

  1. This depends on how you define “here”. New Zealand citizens would be included. What about residents? Once a resident, always able to stay here? Temporary visitors and tourists surely aren’t included.
  2. “All of us here” deciding who else can come here sounds very vague and impractical. Hooton can’t mean that $4m+ people get to decide on any new immigrant.
  3. It should be a given New Zealand citizens anywhere in the world who are able to return should be allowed to.
  4. Having suggested that “all of us here” decide on anyone joining us it is odd to then suggest that because no political party has proposed anything of refugees then changing to more or less should not be up for discussion.

Conclusion – Hooton was trying to stir up discussion. He can’t have been serious or can’t seriously thought this through.

Fresh water report

The Ministry for the Environment has just published Our fresh water 2017

Report confirms serious challenges for rivers

New Zealand’s rivers and lakes are under increasing pressure, according to the latest national report from the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ about the state of fresh water.

Our fresh water 2017, released today, measures the quality of our waterways; water quantity and flows; biodiversity in rivers and lakes; and the cultural health of fresh water.

Key findings from the report are:

  • nitrogen levels are getting worse at 55 percent and getting better at 28 percent of monitored river sites across New Zealand
  • phosphorus levels are getting better at 42 percent and getting worse at 25 percent of monitored river sites across New Zealand
  • of the 39 native fish species we report on, 72 percent are either threatened with or at risk of extinction
  • E.coli levels are 22 times higher in urban areas and 9.5 times higher in pastoral rivers compared with rivers in native forest areas
  • 51 percent of water allocated for consumptive use is for irrigation, and 65 percent of that is allocated to Canterbury.

Government Statistician Liz MacPherson said the regular environment reports were important in providing a national picture of the state of our environment while acknowledging regional variations.

“This helps us see where the greatest pressures are and where we are performing well,” she said. “Today’s report confirms our freshwater environment faces a number of serious challenges.”

Secretary for the Environment Vicky Robertson said land use clearly affected the state of fresh water in this country. “This report confirms our urban waterways are the most polluted but we are seeing more declining trends in pastoral areas and it’s important we do something about it now and continue to track any progress.”

More information was still needed on fresh water biodiversity. “It’s clear many species are under pressure. Of the 39 native fish species we report on, 72 percent are either threatened with or at risk of extinction. About a third of native freshwater plants and invertebrates are also at risk,” Ms Robertson said.

“Recently there has been a strong focus on how swimmable our waterways are, but that is just part of the story. The implications for our freshwater species are really critical.

“Many of our species are found nowhere else in the world so it is even more crucial we don’t lose any under our watch. We need to consider the resilience of all species in any decisions we make that affect the environment.”

Other recent reports also demonstrated the significant impact from human activity on our fresh water quality and quantity and on our ecosystems, habitats and species, Ms Robertson said.

“The more studies there are, the better we understand the impact people have on fresh water. However, we can’t wait for perfect data to act. This report identifies some key issues we can focus on for actions.”

Ms MacPherson said Our fresh water 2017 used the best available data and was independently quality assured. “Good science, data, and information have the potential to shape our choices and the impact we have on our environment at the national, regional, and community level.”

More work was needed on collecting and reporting consistent data on fresh water, including filling gaps in our knowledge, said Ms MacPherson. “It will take time and effective collaboration to get the reliable, well-structured, and relevant statistics we need and we are continually looking at ways to improve data for future reports.”

Ms MacPherson noted that as with the other reports in the environmental reporting series, Our fresh water 2017 was focused on providing underlying evidence to help inform policy responses and the public debate.

“Past experience shows where we focus our energy, we can make a difference,” said Ms Robertson. “Over time we have become better at identifying and addressing point source pollution in water. Good fertiliser and erosion management in some areas appears to have helped decrease phosphorous in some waterways. We must explore more ways to effectively improve our most vulnerable waterways.”

The report is the second since the Environmental Reporting Act came into effect in June 2016. The next report – about atmosphere and climate – will be out in October 2017. More information:




Minister: ‘limit to further dairy intensification’

Nathan Guy, Minister for Primary Industries has said there is a limit to further dairy intensification.

That limit may have already been reached as the environment, especially waterways, has not coped with the surge in cow numbers.

NZ Herald: NZ dairy expansion will hit limits as environmental impact grows, must chase value, Guy says

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says there is a limit to further dairy intensification in New Zealand and growing exports in the future will depend more on increasing the value of products rather than the volume.

The number of dairy cattle in New Zealand has surged as farmers were lured by higher prices for dairy products while demand for sheep meat and wool waned.

That price lure has been wound back with the slump in dairy prices since 2013 (currently running at about two thirds of what they were at their peak).

The latest agricultural statistics for 2016 show New Zealand had 6.5 million dairy cattle, up from just 2.9 million four decades ago.

Dairy products are the country’s largest commodity export worth $11.3 billion in the year through February, and the government aims to double the value of primary sector exports to $64 billion by 2025 from $32 billion in 2012.

In the past two months, New Zealand’s worsening environmental record has come under the microscope of the OECD, Vivid Economics and the Prime Minister’s chief science adviser Peter Gluckman, adding weight to previous reports by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright.

Today, New Zealand published its first Fresh Water report under the Environmental Reporting Act which showed urban areas have the biggest problem with polluted freshwater, but rural areas are showing a faster-declining trend in the quality of fresh water in lakes, rivers and streams.

While efforts have been made to reduce dairy related pollution more has to be done, and it makes sense economically and environmentally to wind back cow numbers and aim to add more value to milk products, and aim for optimal herd numbers rather than just adding more and more.

9th Floor – Jenny Shipley

The next interview in the RNZ ‘9th Floor’ series features Jenny Shipley.

The 9th Floor: Jenny Shipley – The Challenger

By Guyon Espiner

Jenny Shipley evoked strong responses from New Zealanders during her time in politics and I suspect that, with her new comments about “middle class welfare” and working with Winston Peters, she is about to do so again.

But while people respond strongly to Shipley, there has been very little examination of her leadership. Researching the interview for The 9th Floor series, Tim Watkin and I found there were few books and very little academic study of this hugely influential New Zealand politician.

During the day we spent with Shipley she said New Zealand needs to take the “blowtorch” to middle class welfare, with student allowances and healthcare areas where middle and higher income earners should pay more. She finds it “morally bankrupt” that the country doesn’t have an honest discussion about this and that she personally feels “sick” that on her income she can’t opt out of subsidised health care.

She also has some fascinating observations about working with Winston Peters, who may again be a key coalition player after the coming election.

“Winston could have been Prime Minister but for want of himself. His complexity often got ahead of his capability. Watching him on a good day he was brilliant,” she says. “He was an 85 percent outstanding leader. And the 15 percent absolutely crippled him because he would get so myopically preoccupied with a diversion that it took away his capability and intent on the main goal.”

Shipley also says that Peters, Deputy Prime Minister from 1996 to 1998, was excellent at absorbing information but sometimes simply hadn’t done the reading. “I would make a personal judgement as he came into my office as to whether the envelope with the papers in it was either open or closed and it often would tell me the extent to which he had read what we were then going to discuss. I learned to both respect and manage it and on those days the meetings were short.”

Perhaps more than any other leader we spoke to she lets us in on the influences, conflicts and complexities of being Prime Minister. There are two striking aspects to this. The influence and impact on her family is one, and includes a harrowing story of how death threats against her affected her young son. The other is being a woman at the top of politics. Would history have treated Jenny Shipley and Ruth Richardson differently if they were men?

Catlins shark attack

A body boarder was attacked by a shark at Porpoise Bay in the Catlins (near the southernmost point of the South Island) yesterday. Her leg injuries don’t seem too serious.

ODT: Shark attack response praised

A Frenchwoman in her 20s was left with a gash in her leg after a shark came “out of nowhere” while she was bodyboarding in the Catlins yesterday.

The woman was flown to Dunedin Hospital after she was bitten by the shark just after 2pm at Porpoise Bay, which is next to Curio Bay.

The attack left her with a moderate-sized bite wound on her leg and lacerations to other parts of her body.

She remained calm after the attack and “handled it very well”.

“She was conscious the whole time, but had a pretty good gash on her leg.”

Porpoise Bay is a popular place, well known for it’s resident Hector dolphins – I’ve been in the surf there with dolphins riding waves within meters of us.

Department of Conservation marine scientist Clinton Duffy said a range of shark species could be found in that area, including great whites, mako, blue sharks and broadnosed seven-gill sharks.

“And the species most likely to be involved in an attack is either going to be a seven-gill or a great white shark.”

It remained extremely rare for swimmers and surfers to encounter sharks in the wild, let alone be attacked by them.

An attack was reported in 2014 in Porpoise Bay, and another attack. Stuff: Shark attacks Southland surfer

A surfer has suffered three shark bites to his leg in an attack in a Southland bay.

The surfer, 28, was on his board about 50m out from Porpoise Bay Beach, near Curio Bay, last night when the attack happened, police said.

The man was bitten from his thigh to his calf and there was “lots of blood”, a police spokesman said.

A St John spokeswoman said the man had deep lacerations to his leg but was transported to Invercargill Hospital in a stable condition.

The Department of Conservation have been notified, and notices are being put up at Porpoise Bay to warn people of the attack and advise them not to swim there until further notice.

Two weeks ago Invercargill doctor James Grant was also attacked by a shark in Southland’s Garden Bay.

He fought off what was believed to be a sevengill shark, and stitched himself up before his friends took him to hospital.

Garden Bay is 60 km west of Invercargill at the bottom of the South Island, near Colac Bay (not far from  Riverton)

Porpoise Bay is 80 km east of Invercargill.




Steven Joyce’s pre-budget speech

In a pre-budget speech yesterday Minister of Finance Steven Joyce indicated a major increase in infrastructure spending.

Today I can announce that the Government has decided to invest $11 billion in new capital infrastructure over the next four years including $4 Billion in this year’s budget alone.

To put that into context, the net new capital allocated in the last four Budgets was $4.8 billion, of which $4.1 billion was funded through the proceeds of the mixed ownership model programme.

In Budget 2016 we were forecasting just $3.6 billion in new capital spend between Budget 17 and Budget 20 compared to $11 billion now.

The $11 billion is additional spend on top of investments already planned by the Government.

If you add the Government’s budgeted new capital investment together with the investment made through baselines and through the National Land Transport Fund – the total is around $23 billion over the next four years, or an average of nearly $6 billion per year.

Details of how the first tranche of that money will be invested will be laid out in the Budget on May 25th.

A big spend announced in election year.

He outlined his budget priorities.

I have four key areas I am thinking about in getting ready for this year’s Budget.

First, delivering better public services for a growing country – providing all New Zealanders with the opportunity to lead successful independent lives.

Second, building the infrastructure we need in growing a modern economy.

Third, we need to keep reducing debt as a percentage of GDP.

And finally, we remain committed to reducing the tax burden and in particular the impact of marginal tax rates on lower and middle income earners, when we have the room to do so. We need to always remember that every dollar the Government spends comes from hard working Kiwi families.

That’s a lot of things to work on. And at the same time we need to make sure that we continue to build a strong economy.  It’s only by having a strong economy that we get to consider these four priorities.

“This Government’s recipe for economic growth is pretty clear”.

First, is trade. Much has been made of the massive growth of middle-income consumers across Asia. But it has been New Zealand companies, supported by a trade-friendly government that have been converting those opportunities to actual trade, making New Zealand steadily wealthier. And our exports have continued to grow despite the dairy downturn.

Second, our working-age population is growing, and becoming more highly skilled. That means our companies can hire the people they need to keep growing. Our education system is delivering more graduates with the right skills, our immigration system is providing the necessary skilled migrants, and our flexible labour market is encouraging businesses to add more jobs.

Third, New Zealand firms are becoming more innovative. We are building a strong innovation ecosystem of high-tech companies across the health sector, agri-tech, fintech, software as a service, edtech, govtech, and so on. Our programmes encouraging business research and development are achieving real success – Business R&D was $356 million higher last year than it was in 2014.

Fourth, we are actively encouraging more private sector investment in new businesses and in growing existing businesses especially in regional New Zealand. That includes attracting new international investors whose capital can provide more jobs for Kiwis. At the same time we are working hard to balance the economic needs of our regional communities with our all-important goal of improving environmental outcomes.

Finally, we are building the public infrastructure needed to support growth, including roads, rail, broadband, schools, houses and hospitals.  In some parts of New Zealand, including Auckland – you can’t move for road cones at times – which is frustrating – but a strong sign of how we are building for further growth.

The Government’s plan is called the Business Growth Agenda. Blended with sensible, conservative fiscal policy, and successful orthodox monetary policy and you have a recipe for a steadily growing economy that provides more job opportunities and growing incomes.

One of the biggest risks in the New Zealand economy at the moment is the more insular economic policies being pushed overseas, and by our opponents domestically.

A budget speech with an eye to the election.


The Government’s budget is about balancing competing concerns, and that is always the challenge.

Whether in deficit or in surplus there are many alternative uses for the available resources.

The Government has set four priorities for Budget 2017 – boosting public services, building new infrastructure for a growing country, reducing debt, and seeking to lift family incomes.

However the biggest priority is the one that pays for the other four. It is only through having a strong economy that we can tackle the others, and provide for the income and security of New Zealanders.

Building and sustaining a strong economy therefore remains the Government’s most important goal.

It is only through having a strong and prosperous economy, that we can deliver a prosperous and successful New Zealand.

Full text: Pre-Budget Speech 2017 to the Wellington Chamber of Commerce

With Bill English chugging along without being noticeably impressive, and National at risk of settling down in the polls that show a coalition with NZ First would be needed to stay in power – see Roy Morgan – April poll – a lot will be riding on what Joyce delivers in the budget, and how Labour in particular responds.

Trump withdraws threat to withdraw from NAFTA

Yesterday it was being reported that a White House official had indicated that Donald Trump was likely to sign an order beginning the process for the US to withdraw from the NAFTA trade agreement.

That appears to have been a bluff, or Trump has reconsidered.

Trump has more or less confirmed that, but now says he has held off doing that pending negotiations with Canada and Mexico, but Trump has left a threat to withdraw hovering over talks.

Bloomberg: Trump Says Nafta Pullout Still Possible If Renegotiation Fails

President Donald Trump said Thursday he’s still ready to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement if he can’t renegotiate better terms for the U.S. but that he decided to hold off on a decision after appeals from the leaders of Canada and Mexico.

“I was going to terminate NAFTA as of two or three days from now,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. But he said he reconsidered after Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau both phoned him Wednesday asking him to renegotiate the deal instead. Those talks will start as soon as today, he said.

Trump also said a quick U.S. withdrawal “would be a pretty big shock to the system.”

But Trump… added that “If I’m unable to make a fair deal for the United States–meaning a fair deal for our workers and our companies, I will terminate NAFTA.”

So the threat is still there. That seems to be how Trump likes to ‘negotiate’. And how he deals with ‘promises’.

Back in December:  Trump’s stance on NAFTA was a ‘campaign promise designed to be broken’

President-elect Donald Trump’s vow to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, would have a detrimental impact on the United States’ automobile industry and its jobs, VLF Automotive CEO Bob Lutz told CNBC on Friday.

Once Trump looks at the impact of the goals he voiced on the campaign trail, he will find a way out of pushing the auto industry into disarray, Lutz said on CNBC’s “Power Lunch.”

“I have every confidence that this is a campaign promise that is designed to be broken,” Lutz said.

“Trump is a reasonable, good, analytical businessman. Once he takes an earnest look at pluses and minuses of dealing with NAFTA and sees what the impact on American jobs [is],” he’ll find a way to roll back any promise of dismantling the agreement, Lutz contended.

The problem with Trump’s argument that producing car parts abroad constitutes unfair trade practices is that there are international systems in place that are mutually beneficial, said Lutz, who was formerly the vice chairman of General Motors.

So those who voted for Trump based on his promises may have to get used to his wheeling and dealing and flip flopping.

The North American Free Trade Agreement came into force on 1994.

Most economic analyses indicate that NAFTA has been a small net positive for the United States, large net positive for Mexico and had an insignificant impact on Canada.

Chad P. Bown (senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics): “a renegotiated NAFTA that would reestablish trade barriers is unlikely to help workers who lost their jobs — regardless of the cause — take advantage of new employment opportunities.”

Harvard economist Marc Melitz: “recent research estimates that the repeal of NAFTA would not increase car production in the United States.” Melitz notes that this would cost manufacturing jobs.

Israel air strike in Syria

It is being reported that Israel has become more directly involved in the war in Syria, with a claimed air strike on a Hezbollah military target near Damascus airport.

BBC: ‘Israeli strike’ hits military site near Damascus airport

An Israeli missile strike has caused a large explosion and fire at a military site near Damascus international airport, Syrian state media report.

A fuel tank and warehouses were damaged, the Sana news agency said.

But Syrian rebel sources said an arms depot run by Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, which is fighting in Syria as an ally of the government, was hit.

Israel said the explosion was “consistent” with its policy to prevent Iran smuggling weapons to Hezbollah.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group, reported that the powerful blast was heard across the capital at dawn on Thursday and that it was believed to have happened near the main road that leads to the airport.

Sana said several missiles had been fired at a military site south-west of the airport, causing explosions that resulted in some material losses.

Pro-government Al-Mayadeen TV cited sources as saying that missiles had been fired by Israeli jets flying inside the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

But it stopped short of confirming it was responsible.

Israel regards Hezbollah, and its key backer Iran, as its biggest threat.

Hezbollah has supported the Syrian government in the civil war.

Israel is alleged to have previously launched strikes in Syria in 2013.

  • On 30 January 2013, about ten jets bombed a convoy believed to be carrying Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles to Lebanon. The attack, attributed by some media reports to Israeli airforce, did not result in any counterattacks from Syria, although Syria has said it reserves the right to retaliate. Western intelligence sources reported that Iranian general Hassan Shateri had been killed in the airstrike. Iran acknowledged his death at the hands of the Israelis without further details. Israel refused to comment on its involvement in the incident.
  • News organizations reported that Israel allegedly attacked Syria on the night between 2 and 3 May 2013. US officials said that the Israeli war planes shot into Syria from Lebanese air space, and that the warplanes did not enter Syrian air space. No counter-attacks by Syria were reported at any front, and the Syrian ambassador to the UN said that he was not aware of any attacks on Syria by Israel. Israel as well declined any comment.
  • Another alleged attack was reported to be a set of massive explosions in Damascus on the night of 4–5 May 2013. Syrian state media described this as an “Israeli rocket attack”, with the targets including a military research center of the Syrian government in Jamraya. The Daily Telegraph reported anonymous Israeli sources as saying that this was an Israeli attack on Iranian-made guided missiles allegedly intended to be shipped to Hezbollah. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition monitoring group based in Britain, said at least 42 Syrian soldiers were killed in the strikes.
  • Another violent event, possibly linking Israel, occurred in July 2013 in Latakia. Both Syria and Israel denied any report, while Hezbollah claimed that large explosions in Latakia area were caused by rebel mortar fire. Reportedly, the attack targeted Russian-made Yakhont anti-ship missiles near the city of Latakia, and killed several Syrian troops. Russian news agency also reported of Turkish involvement in the incident.
  • On November 2013, a US official stated that Israel conducted an air strike on a Syrian weapons store near Latakia.