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Mexico and Canada prepare for trade talks

Peña Nieto, Trudeau chat ahead of meetings next week with US President Donald Trump

President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau agreed during a telephone conversation yesterday to work together to continue pushing for the economic integration of North America, the president’s office said.

But Canada may well go its own way to protect its own interests with regard to its trade relationship with the U.S.

Both leaders are preparing for meetings next week with the new United States president, Donald Trump, in which trade will likely be the chief topic. Trump has made it clear he wishes to renegotiate or scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on Saturday that Peña Nieto and Trump would meeting in Washington January 31, a meeting will be preceded by others this week when Foreign Affairs Secretary Luis Videgaray and Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal head to Washington for discussions with members of Trump’s administration.

The president’s office said trade, immigration and security would be on the agenda.

Peña Nieto congratulated Trump on taking office when the two spoke by telephone on Saturday. A statement released by Peña Nieto’s office said the president expressed Mexico’s willingness to work on an agenda that would benefit both countries with a focus on respect for sovereignty and shared responsibility.

The Canadian prime minister’s office released a statement yesterday summarizing the telephone discussion between Trudeau and Peña Nieto. It said they “spoke about the importance of the Canada-Mexico bilateral relationship, and of the trilateral North American partnership.”

But the latter will depend largely on Donald Trump, whose statements regarding trade have emphasized the importance of trade deals that are favorable to the U.S.

Remarks yesterday by Canada’s ambassador to the U.S. indicate a possibility that Trump’s protectionist platform could well splinter the accord, the Financial Post reported.

David MacNaughton said Canada will consider bilateral trade measures during NAFTA negotiations, which could mean moving ahead without Mexico.

“I can’t speak for the Mexicans,” he told reporters in comments echoed by Canada’s trade minister. “We 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. Some of them may be within NAFTA, some may not be.”

Source: Milenio (sp), El Universal (sp), Financial Post (en) 

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