New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie expressed support Tuesday for free trade deals but argued that the United States should revisit the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.
Speaking at the 45th annual Washington Conference on the Americas, an event hosted at the State Department by the Council of the Americas, the Republican said he backs giving President Barack Obama trade promotion authority, which would let the President fast-track certain trade deals.
It’s a rare issue on which Republicans largely agree with Obama, but Christie stressed that such authority also must come with “confidence in the people who are negotiating the agreements.”
Christie also said the government needs “to take another look” at NAFTA, but did not go into specifics about what needs to be changed.
“It’s been 20 years now since NAFTA was put into effect,” he said. “We need to be talking to our neighbors about what the next generation of NAFTA will look like.”
He suggested taking “a more continental approach” in terms of approaching the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, an agreement between the United States and the European Union.
“I think there are many ways to work with Canadians and Mexicans to make North America a more powerful force in all of this,” he said, adding that the two countries should be “a first thought, not an afterthought.”
Christie more broadly outlined his vision for North America, saying the United States needs to have better relationships with its neighbors to the north and south, which he said have been neglected by members of both parties in the U.S.
“Part of the challenge of living in this friendly neighborhood is you feel like you don’t have to pay attention to it. It’s not biting at you every day, and as a result you say to yourself, ‘Everything is fine here. Let me go spend time in other places where the fires are burning more intensely,’” he said.
“I understand that instinct, but I think that instinct is misguided because if we develop an even stronger base of cooperation and shared values in this hemisphere, it makes our ability as a collective group of nations even stronger to be able to bring peace and prosperity and stability in the rest of the world,” he added.
Part of that, he stressed, would involve allowing for the construction of the Canada-designed Keystone XL pipeline, which has stalled in the United States over environmental concerns.
“We shouldn’t be in the business, quite frankly, of denying our friends reasonable accommodations when they ask for it. That’s why I think the decision on Keystone is so misguided,” he said.
It’s a push he also made when he visited Canada and Mexico last year as he’s been honing up on foreign policy ahead of his likely presidential bid. Christie said he’s also been “encouraged and invited” to go to South America, adding that he’s “definitely interested in doing that” and he’s looking at the second half of this year to schedule any potential foreign travel.
Christie also reiterated his stance against normalizing relations with Cuba because the nation is harboring cop-killer Joanne Chesimard, who escaped from prison in New Jersey in 1979 and fled to Cuba where she now lives.