OTTAWA – Canada will lift its controversial visa requirement for Mexican visitors before the end of the year, while Mexico has agreed to end long-standing restrictions on Canadian beef imports, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday.
Trudeau made the announcement standing alongside Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto after the two leaders held a bilateral meeting in advance of Wednesday’s North American Leaders’ Summit in Ottawa.
“This move will make it easier for our Mexican friends to visit Canada while growing our local economies and strengthening our communities,” Trudeau said.
WATCH: Mexico opens market to all Canada’s beef products
Ending Mexican restrictions on Canadian beef, a lingering side effect of long-standing fears over mad-cow disease, “will support Canadian farmers and Canadian families,” he added.
The two sides have agreed to work together to advance the interests of indigenous people in both countries, in particular to help women gain access to education and foster innovation and entrepreneurship, Trudeau said.
“The president and I also discussed the need to uphold human rights, advance democracy, and the rule of law, and ensure respect for diversity, as well as the ways in which we can work together to ensure these important goals.”
He said the two countries “share values, goals and ambitions,” and aspire to “take action in ways that will make a real difference in people’s lives.”
The previous Conservative government imposed visas in 2009 to stop thousands of asylum claims being made by ineligible Mexican citizens – a controversial move that has stood as the major irritant between the two countries ever since.
The Opposition Conservatives have argued the visa should not be lifted until its impact can be properly assessed.
The Tories have said the asylum rate for Mexican nationals fell below one per cent over the last four years, down from 25 per cent just before the visa requirement was put in place in 2008.
The Liberals promised during last year’s election campaign that the visa would be lifted, but the process has been fraught with delays.
Pena Nieto, who is scheduled to attend a youth event at the Canadian Museum of Nature later Tuesday before a state dinner hosted by Gov. Gen. David Johnston at Rideau Hall, is likely to find himself overshadowed Wednesday by the arrival of U.S. President Barack Obama for what will be the latter leader’s last visit to Canada as president.
Earlier Tuesday, Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr told a forum on innovation that the meeting is taking place just as similar agendas – transitioning away from fossil fuels and racing towards energy innovation – are seizing governments around the world.
Carr called it “an absolutely important moment as the history of the world begins to adjust to these very important changes.”
“Remarkably, as we talk to each other and as we travel internationally, the agenda of the world is remarkably similar,” he said.
“And that is that we are all in a transition phase where we are reducing the reliance on fossil fuels and increasing our investments in renewable sources of energy, and in innovation.”
Carr also said last week’s referendum in the European Union, with Great Britain voting to exit, sets a stark contrast with the North American Leaders Summit. He said the world is looking to Canada, the United States and Mexico for leadership.
A White House adviser said Monday that the three leaders will focus on a North American-wide commitment to cut methane emissions and release what the adviser says will be a comprehensive North American climate, clean energy and environment partnership.
A Three Amigos summit was scheduled to be held last year but was cancelled amid the Canada-U.S. dispute over the Keystone XL oil pipeline and an ongoing Canada-Mexico fight over visa requirements.