Trudeau fo­cuses on Mex­ico amid ten­sions over NAFTA

Mex­ico Pres­i­dent En­rique Pena Ni­eto has pledged to de­fend deal, but some se­nior lead­ers ap­pear to be lay­ing ground­work for it to fail

The News (New Glasgow) - - CANADA -

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau left one coun­try whose po­lit­i­cal lead­ers are mixed about sav­ing NAFTA and made his way to an­other where of­fi­cials are un­easy about the fate of the trade deal.

Trudeau ar­rived to Mex­ico Thurs­day in the af­ter­math of a day’s worth of meet­ings in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., largely fo­cused on sav­ing the tri­lat­eral trade pact.

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said ahead of meet­ings with Trudeau that it would be fine if the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment was just ter­mi­nated, though mem­bers of Con­gress ex­pressed hope ear­lier in the day it could be re­worked.

A sim­i­lar ten­sion ap­pears to ex­ist in Mex­ico, where Pres­i­dent En­rique Pena Ni­eto has pledged to de­fend the deal, but some of his se­nior lead­er­ship ap­pear to be lay­ing ground­work for it to fail.

The coun­try’s for­eign re­la­tions sec­re­tary said this week it would not be a big deal for Mex­ico to just walk away from the talks, and that Mex­ico won’t ac­cept “lim­ited, man­aged trade,” an ap­par­ent ref­er­ence to de­mands for higher U.S. and re­gional con­tent rules on prod­ucts like auto parts.

Mean­while, a vet­eran Mex­i­can diplo­mat has ex­pressed fears about the pos­si­bil­ity that NAFTA could be ditched in favour of bi­lat­eral agree­ments, an is­sue raised by Trump as well.

“Some of us in Mex­ico think that on sev­eral oc­ca­sions our Cana­dian friends have come close to throw­ing us un­der the bus,” said Ar­turo Sarukhan, the for­mer Mex­i­can am­bas­sador to the U.S., said at a NAFTA-re­lated event hosted by Den­tons law firm in D.C. on Wed­nes­day.

“How do we Mex­i­cans en­sure (our) Cana­dian friends stay fo­cused on a tri­lat­eral ap­proach?”

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. 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.

“So say­ing, we are ready for any­thing and we will con­tinue to work dili­gently to pro­tect Cana­dian in­ter­ests, to stand up for jobs, and look for op­por­tu­ni­ties for Cana­dian busi­ness and ci­ti­zens of all of our friends and neighbour coun­tries to do well.”

Trudeau’s visit to Mex­ico is his first of­fi­cial so­journ to the coun­try and fol­lows Pena Ni­eto’s visit to Canada in June 2016.

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