Mexico will seek a bilateral trade agreement with Canada if NAFTA talks fail, president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador said yesterday.
Mexico and the United States reached a separate accord late last month but so far negotiations aimed at bringing Canada into the deal have failed amid U.S. threats to impose tariffs on auto imports from its northern neighbor.
“We would like the government of the United States and the government of Canada to come to an agreement so that the treaty can be trilateral, as it was originally signed,” López Obrador told reporters in Sonora.
“But in the event that the governments of the United States and Canada do not come to an agreement . . . we would have to maintain the bilateral deal with the United States and seek a similar deal with Canada,” he added.
“Obviously we can’t cut ties with either.”
The United States and Canada concluded another round of talks in Washington D.C. Thursday without reaching agreement, although Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland described the dialogue as “constructive.”
White House economic advisor Kevin Hassett told Fox News yesterday that the United States was “getting very close” to having to advance its separate deal with Mexico, leaving Canada out of the agreement. U.S. President Donald Trump had suggested that was a possibility when he first announced the two-way pact.
A United States-imposed October 1 deadline to publish the text of a deal is closing fast.
Trilateral negotiations began in August last year and were expected to be finished before the end of 2017 but dragged on due to a failure of consensus on a range of issues such as rules of origin for the auto sector and a so-called sunset clause, pushed by the United States, that would have terminated the agreement after five years if it was not renegotiated.
After five weeks of bilateral negotiations in Washington D.C., Mexico and the United States announced August 27 that they had reached a bilateral deal.
López Obrador’s future chief negotiator Jesús Seade participated in the talks and was said to have played a key role in convincing the United States to drop its sunset clause demand and agree instead to a six-year review.
Mexico, in turn, agreed that 40% to 45% of auto content would have to be made in high-wage areas where workers earn at least US $16 per hour.
Some observers said that Mexico betrayed Canada by making a separate deal with the United States, although Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo denied the claim and it was later revealed that Canada had attempted to blindside Mexico by pursuing its own separate deal with its neighbor.
López Obrador, who will be sworn in on December 1, also said yesterday that he has had a good relationship so far with the Trump administration.
“I hope with all my heart it stays that way.”
He told reporters in San Luis Río Colorado, Sonora, he had spoken with Trump by telephone about free trade and immigration “and some agreements are being reached,” observing that the U.S. president had been respectful. “It was a very good conversation.”
“We’re neighbors. We can’t be distant neighbors. We have to achieve a relationship of respect and cooperation.”
Source: AFP (sp)