Mexico, Canada officials demand for trilateral NAFTA renegotiation
Mexican and Canadian officials met in Mexico City to made their stance clear that negotiations to update the North American Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. should be trilateral as a matter of common sense, and that replacing it with bilateral pacts would be impractical.
“This is a trilateral agreement, and therefore for us, it is simply a matter of common sense; the negotiations on NAFTA will be trilateral,” said Chrystia Freeland, the Canadian minister of foreign affairs, on a press conference at the Mexican office of the Secretary of Foreign Affairs.
Ms. Freeland acknowledged that some issues within the region are bilateral by nature, such as U.S. disputes with Canada over lumber and with Mexico over sugar, but considered that NAFTA as a whole can be modernized only with the agreement of the three parties.
The view was echoed by Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray, who said three bilateral agreements between the three countries would be impractical and a lost opportunity.
“In the very beginning Nafta was not a trilateral deal, but after some thought, common sense made it a trilateral deal. And that was 25 years ago when the integration of value chains was not present,” he said.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has said that the reworking of Nafta could be as the existing trilateral pact or a series of bilateral agreements with symmetrical provisions. U.S. President Donald Trump has kept open the possibility of abandoning Nafta if the U.S. doesn’t secure a satisfactory deal.
The Trump administration notified Congress earlier this month of its intention to renegotiate the 23-year-old trade pact, and formal talks are expected to begin by mid or late August.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has said the U.S. hopes to maintain the existing structure of the agreement, although there are no guarantees, and that many parts of the negotiation will be conducted bilaterally.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, NAFTA is currently the world’s largest free trade area, linking approximately 450 million people.