Chris Christie interested in 'next generation' of North American free trade, vows to travel

Economic Indicators Associated Press

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says it's time to look into the "next generation" of North American free trade.

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"I do think that we need to take another look at (the North American Free Trade Agreement)," the 2016 Republican presidential prospect said at the annual Washington Conference on the Americas on Wednesday. "You know, it's been 20 years now since NAFTA was put into effect. And what's the next chapter going to look like?

He added: "We know what's happened over the last 20 years with NAFTA, but I think we need to be talking to our neighbors about what the next generation of NAFTA will look like."

NAFTA, signed by the United States, Mexico and Canada, took effect in 1994 and was aimed at eliminating trade barriers among the countries. But many Americans blame it for job losses.

Christie said the U.S. shouldn't be afraid of engaging in broad-based trade agreements as long as they are negotiated fairly. His comments came as he was being interviewed by Susan Segal, the president of the Americas Society and Council of the Americas, at the U.S. Department of State.

He did not respond to questions from reporters after his appearance.

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During the conversation, Christie also stressed the importance of ties across North America, as he did during recent trade missions to Mexico and Canada, and said he's interested in more foreign travel, potentially to South America, during the second half of the year.

"Certainly I've been encouraged and invited to come to South America and definitely interested in doing that. Now it's really just a question of time," he said. "You just have to make the time to do that, and I think you'll see us make time to travel more around the world. It's fascinating, and it's good for my state."

He traveled to the United Kingdom in February.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, another likely 2016 Republican presidential contender, announced this week that he's planning a policy trip to Europe this summer, with stops in Germany, Poland and Estonia.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez also were scheduled to speak at the summit on Tuesday.