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Trudeau turns attention to Mexico in midst of tensions over NAFTA

Justin Trudeau departed the U.S. capital for Mexico City on Thursday, leaving behind one country with mixed feelings about the North American Free Trade Agreement and landing squarely in another.

The prime minister finally acknowledged Wednesday the possibility of North America without NAFTA after a day of Washington meetings that included pointed pessimism from U.S. President Donald Trump about the fate of trilateral trade pact.

Prior to sitting down with Trudeau, Trump said it would be fine if the North American Free Trade Agreement was just terminated, although members of Congress expressed hope earlier in the day it could be reworked.

A similar tension appears to exist in Mexico, where President Enrique Pena Nieto has pledged to defend the deal, but some of his senior leadership appear to be laying groundwork for it to fail.

The country’s foreign relations secretary said this week it would not be a big deal for Mexico to just walk away from the talks, and that Mexico won’t accept “limited, managed trade” _ an apparent reference to demands for higher U.S. and regional content rules on products like auto parts.

Meanwhile, a veteran Mexican diplomat has expressed fears about the possibility that NAFTA could be ditched in favour of bilateral agreements, an issue raised by Trump as well.

“Some of us in Mexico think that on several occasions our Canadian friends have come close to throwing us under the bus,” said Arturo Sarukhan, the former Mexican ambassador to the U.S., said at a NAFTA-related event hosted by Dentons law firm in D.C. on Wednesday.

“How do we Mexicans ensure (our) Canadian friends stay focused on a trilateral approach?”

Trudeau was asked whether a bilateral deal with Mexico could be in the cards should the trilateral talks fail.

He said he knows there are other paths that could be pursued, and they’ll be followed if necessary.

For now, he remains optimistic.

“I continue to believe in NAFTA; I continue to believe that as a continent working together in complementary ways is better for our citizens and better for economic growth, and allows us to compete on a stronger footing with the global economy,” Trudeau said.

“So saying, we are ready for anything and we will continue to work diligently to protect Canadian interests, to stand up for jobs, and look for opportunities for Canadian business and citizens of all of our friends and neighbour countries to do well.”

Source: The Canadian Press

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