The foreign ministers of Mexico and Canada presented a unified front ahead of potential trade talks with President Trump’s administration, stressing that the North American Free Trade Agreement has benefited all three countries.
Mexico’s Luis Videgaray and Canada’s Chrystia Freeland said Nafta should be renegotiated with all three nations seated at the table, rather than in bilateral discussions.
“We very much recognize that Nafta is a three-country agreement,” Freeland said Feb. 21 at a panel discussion with Videgaray in Toronto ahead of private trade talks. “We really value our relationship with Mexico.”
Before Freeland and Videgaray met for their talks, Trump said trade with Canada needed only a “tweak” as opposed to a more thorough reset with Mexico, a comment he made after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to the White House during the week of Feb. 13. Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto canceled a January meeting with the U.S. president after Trump tweeted that Nieto shouldn’t come unless Mexico was prepared to pay for a border wall to stop undocumented immigration.
Mexico’s relationship with the United States goes deeper than Trump’s “damaging” rhetoric, Videgaray said. He has been to meetings in Washington twice since the president’s inauguration and said he was confident the two nations’ issues could be resolved. “We will work it out in a way that is constructive and positive for both countries,” the foreign minister said.
Earlier Feb. 21, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said he expected Nafta negotiations to start in the summer and that Mexico wouldn’t initiate talk about tariffs, calling any discussion of new import taxes a “Pandora’s box.”
“Nothing in the new Nafta should be a step backwards,” he said.
Freeland took a more reserved position, saying Trump’s trade team, including commerce secretary nominee Wilbur Ross, have yet to be confirmed. As a result, she said, Canada has had no specific discussions with the United States yet about Nafta.
“We all collectively have to be quite careful not to get ahead of ourselves,” she said.
The morning event began with remarks by Brian Mulroney, a former Canadian prime minister who has been acting as an informal emissary to Trump for Trudeau. Mulroney, who signed Nafta in 1992 and who spoke to the president Feb. 18 at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, was asked about reports that Canada would abandon its southern partner and deal directly with the United States.
“You can forget this under-the-bus argument,” Mulroney said. “This under-the-bus stuff is for losers, not winners, and Canada is a winner.”
Canada’s ambassador to the United States, David MacNaughton, said in January that Canada will “cooperate on trilateral matters when it’s in our interest, and we’ll be looking to do things that are in our interest bilaterally also.” He made his comments at a meeting where Blackstone Group Chairman Stephen Schwarzman assured Trudeau’s Cabinet that Trump was targeting Mexico, not Canada, in his trade overhaul.