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US Could Rejoin Trans-Pacific Trade Pact If Better Deal Is Reached

FILE - U.S. President Donald Trump, left, talks with Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha during the family photo session during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Danang, Vietnam, Nov. 11, 2017.

U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday the United States would rejoin 11 other nations in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade compact if it can get "a much better deal than we had" in the accord agreed to by former President Barack Obama.

"I would do TPP if we were able to make a substantially better deal," Trump told CNBC while he was attending the annual World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos. "The deal was terrible; the way it was structured was terrible. If we did a substantially better deal, I would be open to TPP."

Trump did not spell out what he sees as the shortcomings in the trans-Pacific deal, which was negotiated over several years before agreement was reached in 2016. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the TPP last year, but gave no indication on whether the U.S. has made any overtures to the other 11 countries on rejoining.

Trump voiced his preference for one-on-one trade deals with other countries and continued to question the U.S. participation in the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, with Mexico and Canada.

"I like bilateral, because if you have a problem, you terminate," Trump said. "When you're in with many countries — like with TPP, so you have 12 if we were in — you don't have ... that same option."

He said the TPP was "a bad deal, like the Iran deal is a bad deal," referring to the 2015 international pact to curtail Iran's nuclear weapons development in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions against Tehran.

After Trump withdrew the U.S. from the TPP, the remaining countries opened talks on reshaping the pact, calling it the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Negotiations are continuing on reshaping the 24-year-old NAFTA, with the latest round of talks this week in Montreal. Trump gave no indication on whether he plans to pull the U.S. out of NAFTA.

"We have a trade deficit with Canada ($12 billion in 2016)," he said. "We have a massive trade deficit with Mexico ($71 billion annually.) We gotta do something. We can't continue to do this.

"So, will it be renegotiated?" he asked rhetorically. "We're trying right now with [U.S. Trade Representative] Bob Lighthizer and the whole group. I think we have a good chance, but we'll see what happens."