After days of speculation that a bilateral North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) had been reached between the United States and Mexico, the Mexican president-elect insisted on bringing Canada into the deal.
On Monday, Mexico and the U.S. announced a deal to change the 25-year old trade pact, with Canada pressured to sign on by Friday.
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who will take office on Dec. 1, made the comments during his speech before an event in the Mexican state of Chiapas. He said it was important that Canada was part of the deal.
During Obrador’s speech, he added that the country maintained its right to change its constitution and laws related to energy, a key issue during the presidential campaign.
On Monday evening, a statement was released saying that U.S. President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had spoken about NAFTA talks, and that Trudeau welcomed the progress made in the discussions between the U.S. and Mexico.
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Further, the statement went on to say that the two leaders will engage this week “with a view to successful conclusion of the negotiations.”
Shortly after the Prime Minister’s Office released its statement, Conservative Foreign Affairs critic Erin O’Toole, released a note claiming that the Trudeau government has “failed to advance Canada’s trade interests.”
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“For years, Conservatives have asked for a more serious approach from the Trudeau government on NAFTA, but the Liberals have preferred domestic political posturing over advancing our economic interests,” it read. “I am troubled that despite the fact that NAFTA grew out of the Canada-US free trade agreement, Mexico appears to have usurped our role as the key US trade partner.”
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Last week and over the weekend, there had been whispers of a bilateral agreement being reached between the U.S. and Mexico, with Trump tweeting, “Deal with Mexico is coming along nicely. Autoworkers and farmers must be taken care of or there will be no deal. New President of Mexico has been an absolute gentleman. Canada must wait.”
Trump said in a press conference on Monday that negotiations with Canada would begin “almost immediately,” now that discussions with Mexico are coming to a close.
“We’re starting negotiations with Canada pretty much immediately,” Trump said. He added, the Canadian economy is “a smaller segment, Mexico is a very large trading partner.”
Outgoing Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto also commented on the discussions, saying he hopes Canada will come back to the table.
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“Let us hope that soon, in equal measure, the same will happen with the negotiation with Canada and the United States that would allow us in the coming days to formally close the Free Trade Agreement — Mexico, the United States and Canada.”
There are few details so far about the content of the U.S.-Mexico agreement, nor what Ottawa would need to agree to in order to sign it by Friday.
— With files from Reuters