To hear Pierre Alarie tell it, Mexico and Canada are like two weary travellers seeking shelter from the same storm — the fierce bluster from Donald Trump’s frequent criticism of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The two nations will be better able to withstand that storm if they stand together, the Canadian ambassador to Mexico declared last month during a speech to a business gathering in that country’s capital city.
Alarie’s message, Mexican and Canadian officials say, reflects a deep level of co-operation between the two countries — something that, given the challenging three-way dynamics of North American politics, hasn’t always been the case in the past.
It may not be the case in the future, either.
If push comes to shove, some observers warn, Canada will have to jettison Mexico and pursue its own bilateral side deal with the U.S. if the NAFTA talks degenerate.
A strong, newly negotiated three-way NAFTA is the goal, said Maryscott Greenwood, head of the Canadian American Business Council. But strained relations between Trump and Mexico could well make that difficult, she acknowledged.
“If it’s politically impossible … for the U.S. to move forward with a comprehensive economic relationship with Mexico for various reasons — Mexican politics, U.S. politics — then we think, ‘Don’t be delayed by that; move forward with a bilateral negotiation,”‘ Greenwood recently told the House of Commons foreign affairs committee.
“If we can’t have trilateral, certainly we should move forward on a new agreement with Canada and the United States. We think it’s doable and possible.”
Not surprisingly, Mexico’s political leaders, like Tourism Minister Enrique de la Madrid Cordero, warn against abandoning NAFTA’s unique three-way nature.
Canada and Mexico should be working together to modernize the 23-year-old trade deal, not settling for a series of bilateral side deals where one country throws the other under the bus to serve its own interests, he said.
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