Foreign minister: Mexico willing to 'step away from NAFTA'

By Andrew V. Pestano  |  March 24, 2017 at 8:19 AM
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March 24 (UPI) -- Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray said that if North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations don't benefit all parties involved, the country is willing to "step away" from it.

In an interview with Bloomberg, he said pulling out of NAFTA would be a last resort.

"If what is on the table is something that is not good for Mexico, Mexico will step away from NAFTA," Videgaray said.

"Both parties have leverage with each other. The questions is: Can you pull your leverage without hurting yourself? Probably not. We're not approaching this in that sense. It should be a constructive process," he added.

Videgaray said Mexico's relationship with the United States goes beyond trade; it already affects the politics of Mexico ahead of a presidential election in which NAFTA could be a wedge issue.

Mexico will hold presidential elections in 2018. During an interview with Bloomberg, Videgaray said he anticipates negotiations between Mexico, Canada and the United States over NAFTA could begin in the summer.

When asked if negotiations could begin later and spill over into 2018, during Mexico's presidential cycle, and make relations with the United States and trade a key issue, Videgaray said those issues are the reasons the Mexican and U.S. governments must work constructively.

"I think that already the U.S. relationship -- the Mexico-U.S. relationship -- is going to be an important part of the political environment in Mexico as we approach an election cycle," Videgaray said. "That's something that goes beyond trade, is the way that Mexico feels about the U.S., and that's why I think it's so important to work constructively, in good faith, work closely toward getting a good understand and a good deal for both sides.

He said doing negotiating the agreement well would be a "win-win" for Mexico, Canada and the United States.

"It's a clear win-win for both the U.S., Mexico and for Canada, as well, because this is a trilateral deal, and we expect formal negotiations to start at some point during summer," Videgaray said.

On renegotiating NAFTA, Videgaray said the Mexican government already has its list of objectives prepared, which, among others, call for the protection of Mexicans in the United States and others issues surrounding security and migration.

On trade, Videgaray said the Mexican government's primary goal under President Enrique Peña Nieto is for the "Free Trade Agreement to remain free trade."

"Can it be improved? Oh, yeah. For sure. It can be improved. It's a 20-year-old agreement and many things can be done better," Videgaray said. "We've learned a lot over these 20 years and the world has changed, but it's got to remain a free trade agreement, where investments are protected, that investors in Mexico, and the U.S. and Canada are under the rule of law and feel protected, and also, very important, that we include things that didn't exist when NAFTA was created like electronic commerce, or sectors from Mexican economy that [were] complete closed and now after recent reforms have been opened like energy, telecommunications and even the financial sector."

U.S. President Donald Trump vowed to "renegotiate NAFTA or withdraw from the deal under Article 2205" within his first 100 days in office. Trump has repeatedly said NAFTA is a "bad deal" that has harmed Americans while benefiting Mexico and Canada.

In 2015, the U.S. Congressional Research Service said NAFTA's effects were neither damaging nor helpful.

"In reality, NAFTA did not cause the huge job losses feared by the critics or the large economic gains predicted by supporters," the independent report said. "The net overall effect of NAFTA on the U.S. economy appears to have been relatively modest, primarily because trade with Canada and Mexico accounts for a small percentage of U.S. GDP."

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