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Blanco, left, and Gortari: not enough allies. Blanco, left, and Gortari: not enough allies.

In the White House Mexico has no allies

Former chief negotiator of NAFTA recalls all three countries wanted free trade

Mexico has no allies in the White House, the former chief negotiator of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) said yesterday, underscoring the difficulties the government faces in the renegotiation of the treaty and President Donald Trump’s scathing rhetoric against it.

Herminio Blanco, secretary of trade from 1994 to 2000 and a key NAFTA architect, made the comment while attending the launch of a new book about the 23-year-old agreement.

Written by former president Carlos Salinas de Gortari, who was in office when NAFTA took effect, the book traces the history of the free-trade treaty including the negotiation process in the years preceding its implementation.

According to Blanco, the title chosen by the ex-president is fitting.

“The title, Allies and Adversaries, is very good.  In that [initial] negotiation, we had allies . . . in the renegotiation we are having [now], of which the fifth round was held this week, we have allies in Congress, we have allies in the [U.S.] public sector but unfortunately, we don’t have allies in the executive branch,” he said.

United States President Donald Trump has made it clear that he is no fan of the agreement and even went as far to label NAFTA “the single worst trade deal ever approved in this country” while on the campaign trail last year.

Since taking office, he has maintained his hardline rhetoric and threatened to pull out of the agreement on several occasions if it cannot be reworked to his liking.

The tough stance adopted by the U.S. stands in contrast to the original negotiations, Blanco reiterated.

“. . . The three countries wanted free trade and today it’s not like that. We were adversaries only with regard to the methods to get to a free trade [agreement and] the timeframes . . .” he said.

Blanco also emphasized the importance of the agreement in setting a precedent that led to greater trade liberalization around the world.

“Before the agreement the world was one thing, [then] it awoke. There was an epidemic of free trade agreements around the world, a large network was created and it was all because of the agreement that was negotiated between Mexico, the United States and Canada, that’s its value,” he said.

Salinas de Gortari also took a swipe at what is seen as the United States’ uncompromising position although he acknowledged that the agreement needed to be updated.

“Today with the change that has occurred in the economic structure, modernization [of NAFTA] is as indispensable as it is inevitable, just not for the reasons they [the U.S.] are demanding,” he said.

“When the agreement was negotiated there was no internet . . . there was no trend towards artificial intelligence or the dramatic change that has emerged in the global financial structure,” he added.

Salinas also said that Mexico was previously considered a solution to the United States’ insatiable appetite for economic growth rather than a problem. Given that the U.S. has a much larger debt to China than to Mexico, there is no justification for the U.S. to pull out of NAFTA, he added.

Representatives from the three countries will attend an intersessional meeting in Washington next month where they will aim to make headway on contentious issues before reconvening for the sixth round of formal talks in Montreal, Canada, in late January.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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