Mexico pushing forward with ratification of new NAFTA despite Trump tariff threat


Mexico’s ambassador to Canada says his country is pushing forward with the ratification of the new NAFTA despite ongoing threats from U.S. President Donald Trump to slap tariffs on Mexican goods.

But Juan Jose Gomez Camacho — just two and a half months into his appointment as Mexico City’s top diplomat in Ottawa — wouldn’t speculate on the deal’s fate if Trump follows through on his pledge to impose the levies by Monday.

“We are pressing on because that hasn’t happened,” Gomez Camacho said in an interview. “We hope it will not happen, so let’s wait.”

Trump has said he’ll impose tariffs of 5 per cent on all Mexican imports, rising to 25 per cent by October, unless Mexico curbs the flow of Central American migrants crossing America’s southern border.

High-level talks to avert the tariffs were making progress in Washington, both sides claimed Thursday — though Trump said the U.S. remained prepared to apply the levies.

“We’ll see what happens,” he told reporters during a trip to Ireland. “But something pretty dramatic could happen. We’ve told Mexico the tariffs go on. And I mean it, too. And I’m very happy with it.”

Asked how the talks were advancing, Gomez Camacho echoed the positive spin of the Mexican delegation.

“Our perception is we made some progress, that we need to keep talking, that we are talking,” he said. “So we remain optimistic that we can find a common or mutually beneficial solution to this issue.”

He declined to speculate on whether Mexico would retaliate against U.S. tariffs and what form that retaliation might take, saying Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador would give an update on Mexico’s position on Saturday “when the landscape is clearer.”

“The challenge is, as you know, that over the years Mexico has been the largest migration corridor in the world,” he said. “The flows are in the hundreds of thousands every year and this last few months, have been in the hundreds of thousands a month. That’s a reality that’s very objective, the question is how can that be addressed.”

More than 144,000 migrants were encountered or arrested at the U.S.-Mexico border in May. That’s a 32 per cent increase over April and the highest monthly total in 13 years, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Wednesday.

Nearly 133,000 of those crossed the US-Mexico border illegally, including over 11,000 unaccompanied children.

Mexico has sent close to 100,000 migrants back to their countries of origin in the last two or three months, Gomez Camacho said.

The flags of Canada, Mexico and the U.S. on a lectern.

REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

“If it hadn’t been for the work Mexico is doing, the U.S. would be seeing much larger numbers of migrants rising to the border,” he said. “We are doing already the heavy lifting on this issue, yet as I was saying, clearly we need to discuss other strategies or alternatives to curb down these numbers.”

Any solution would have to address the human rights of the migrants and root causes of the problem, including violence and poverty in their home countries, he said.

Among Gomez Camacho’s priorities in Ottawa, the ratification of the revamped NAFTA is “top of the list,” he said.

“We are really moving forward and this only shows our confidence that we will be able to avert this issue but also a belief and conviction that NAFTA is the right thing to do, the right way to go. “

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador sent the deal for Senate approval May 30 “more or less in a synchronized way” with the other two countries he said.

Indeed, the Trump administration sent a draft statement of administrative action to Congress on the same day, putting lawmakers on notice that the pact could be submitted for their approval soon. And U.S. Vice President Mike Pence met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa, also on May 30, in a bid to build momentum for the trade pact.

Our perception is we made some progress, that we need to keep talking, that we are talking

Juan Jose Gomez Camacho, Mexico’s ambassador to Canada

Trump’s surprise threat to impose tariffs on Mexican goods came just hours after Pence’s Ottawa visit ended.

“We were doing so well,” Gomez Camacho said with a laugh. “But we still believe it is possible, we still believe it will happen.”

This week, the president of the Mexican Senate continued to take steps toward ratification, he said, sending elements of the deal to various committees within the legislative body for approval.

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Source: Financial Post

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