The foreign ministers of Canada and Mexico, Chrystia Freeland and Luis Videgaray, stood shoulder to shoulder this week to declare that the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) should stay trilateral and that any move by the United States to cut individual deals would be rejected.
The joint statement pours cold water on suggestions from U.S. President Donald Trump and some of his cabinet ministers that the United States could sign separate deals with Mexico and Canada.
After meeting in Mexico City Wednesday, both Freeland and Videgaray said they were optimistic that the renegotiation of Nafta would be completed by fall.
According to Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo, who joined in the meeting, agreement has already been reached on two-thirds of the trade deal.
A further round of Nafta talks resumed Thursday in Washington, where negotiators are expected to tackle two of the thorniest issues for the United States — the amount of North American content in autos made in the three nations, and the polemic sunset clause that would allow a member nation to withdraw after five years. Both Mexico and the Canada are adamant that neither proposal is in their best interests.
Freeland also met for two hours with Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in his transition office in the capital’s Colonia Roma.
“The atmosphere was very cordial and, of course, there is much affinity on many points since we are talking about a Canadian government with principles and progressive ideas,” Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s next foreign secretary, said after the encounter.
Ebrard said the president-elect told Freeland that he expected to see “a significant increase” in Canadian investment in Mexico over the next six years. Specifically, Lopez Obrador invited Canada to “participate” in two mega-projects: the Maya Train, that would open up tourism in southern Mexico by connecting Cancun with five other states; and the Tehuantepec Isthmus, an ambitious plan to connect the Pacific and Atlantic oceans by carving a canal across Mexico’s narrowest point (215 kilometers) in the south of the country. Backers of the project say Mexico would reap huge benefits by being the only alternative to the Panama Canal.