The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Instead of blanket trade agreements, Donald Trump wants to negotiate one-on-one with countries

Donald Trump waves to supporters after a campaign rally at the Century Center in South Bend, Ind., on Monday. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Donald Trump wants the United States to stop negotiating blanket trade deals that include a number of countries, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, and instead negotiate one-on-one with individual countries.

"I don't mind making agreements, but we shouldn't make agreements with 12 countries," Trump said at a rally in this Indiana college town Monday night. "We should make agreements with one-on-one. One-on-one. One-on-one. And you know what? If they don't treat us right, we pull the agreement."

Trump has long been critical of the country's trade agreements and has promised for months that if he becomes president, he will hire the world's most aggressive negotiators to hammer out future deals. Trump insists that he supports free trade, but he has advocated for what he calls "fair trade" and "smart trade," which could involve threatening to charge some countries or companies massive tariffs in an effort to keep more jobs in the United States. In recent days, Trump has expanded on his trade plans, saying he doesn't want any blanket agreements because they are too complicated and too difficult to escape if another country takes advantage of the United States.

He said few lawmakers fully understand the ongoing negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which he says "will make NAFTA look like a baby." He warned his supporters that entering the new trade agreement would be like getting caught up in a spider web that's difficult to escape.

"I want one-on-one: If somebody treats us well, we make a trade agreement, and I'll have the best negotiators in the world make a fair agreement. Okay?" Trump said. "I don't want to be tied up: If 'Country A' does this and if 'Country C' does that, then 'Country D' will be able to come to -- nobody knows what the hell is going on. And the bad countries, countries that haven't treated us well, benefit because they get the benefit of what the good countries are getting. So everybody is taking advantage. It's a disaster."