By Eric M. Johnson
SEATTLE (Reuters) - Republican U.S. President Donald Trump's efforts to renegotiate or scrap longstanding global trade deals are not protectionist and are more focused on winning better terms for American businesses, the top executive of United Parcel Service <UPS.N> said on Thursday.
"I have to tell you, we don't consider what we are hearing from the president as protectionist," Chief Executive Officer David Abney told Reuters in a phone interview after the world's largest package delivery company reported a higher-than-expected second-quarter net profit.
"Protectionist would be 'we don't want trade agreements' and just try to protect the U.S. in that regard," he added. "It's much more about having more favorable terms than it is about protectionism."
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Abney's remarks come as the Trump administration nears the August 16 start of talks with Mexico and Canada to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Trump has repeatedly called the 1994 trade treaty a "disaster" that has shuttered U.S. factories and sent American jobs to Mexico.
UPS has been expanding its services into Mexico. Ahead of NAFTA negotiations, Abney said UPS has told the Trump administration it wants to "take friction" out of border crossings to speed them up and modernize the agreement with language about ecommerce.
"I'd be more worried if there were no changes to the deal," he said, adding that NAFTA needs to be modernized. "We believe that we've been listened to."
In a conference call with analysts earlier on Thursday, Abney praised a free trade pact Japan and the European Union concluded in early July creating the world's biggest open economic area. The CEO also reiterated UPS' previous strong support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and a desire to see the U.S. enter into trade agreements with its member countries.
The Japan-EU trade deal was interpreted as signaling resistance to what many world leaders see protectionism by Trump.
On the campaign trail and in the White House, Trump has championed "America First" policy positions on trade, promising new or revised deals to boost American manufacturing.
In January, shortly after taking office, Trump formally withdrew America from the TPP.
The 12-nation trade deal was negotiated by former Democratic President Barack Obama's administration.
UPS on Thursday reported a higher-than-expected quarterly net profit due to rising ecommerce deliveries even as investors worried about the company's performance in the back-half of the year and shares fell 4.6 percent.
(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Nick Zieminski)