Trudeau turns attention to Mexico
Playing longer game amid NAFTA tensions
MEXICO CITY • The Liberal government’s approach to foreign policy as a mix of formal and public diplomacy was on full display Thursday as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrived for his first state visit to Mexico.
The pomp and circumstance that greeted Trudeau at the airport was followed by a sombre wreath-laying ceremony at a monument commemorating Mexico’s efforts to beat back an American invasion in the 1850s — an apt image as both Canada and Mexico now contemplate how to withstand new U.S. strong-arming efforts over trade.
While the ongoing renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement was to be the centrepiece of Trudeau’s bilateral meeting with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, the Canadian government is also in Mexico to play a longer game.
Pena Nieto’s term is nearly up and with Mexico as one of the countries on Trudeau’s priority list for stronger relations, one goal of this visit is to forge new relationships and cement Canada’s standing in the eyes of Mexicans as a trusted partner in all things, not just trade.
Hence, Thursday’s visit to a Red Cross distribution centre, where Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, donned volunteer vests and handed over boxes of baby goods, foods and household supplies for earthquake relief efforts. To the whir of a wall of cameras, they packed donation boxes, toured the centre and shook hands with beaming volunteers to the chants of “Canada.”
I love Mexico, said Trudeau, whose arrival in Mexico City followed a day of meetings in Washington, D.C., focused on rescuing the ailing North American Free Trade Agreement.
Trudeau was asked whether a bilateral deal with Mexico could be in the cards should the trilateral talks fail.
He said he knows there are other paths that could be pursued, and they’ll be followed if necessary. But for now, he remains optimistic.
“I continue to believe in NAFTA; I continue to believe that as a continent, working together in complementary ways is better for our citizens and better for economic growth, and allows us to compete on a stronger footing with the global economy,” Trudeau said.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau, in Washington for meetings with G20 finance ministers and the International Monetary Fund, was confronted Thursday with several questions about a possible U.S. exit from NAFTA.
“There’s a path to be optimistic here and, you know, maybe he’ll come around,” Morneau said, an apparent reference to U.S. President Donald Trump, who has said it would be fine if NAFTA is terminated. “I’m of the view that over the long term, because trade has been so beneficial for everyone, that we will get through periods of question.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau help with earthquake relief at the Red Cross in Mexico City on Thursday.
Justin Trudeau and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, left, visit with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and wife Angelica Rivera in Mexico City on Thursday.