Mexico celebrates start of new trade accord with US, Canada

July 01, 2020 - 11:57 am

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico celebrated the implementation of a new free trade agreement with Canada and the United States that it hopes will lead to more investment in its struggling economy.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the accord, which replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement, will provide greater certainty to the three countries in their commercial relationships.

Their supply chains are deeply intertwined. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was pressure from the U.S. government to allow some Mexican assembly plants to quickly reopen or remain open to cause less interruption.

“There are clear rules,” López Obrador said Wednesday. “You can’t have border closures or tariff increases on products without a legal-type procedure with the famous panels where representatives of the three countries participate.”

President Donald Trump had threatened crippling tariffs on Mexican imports last year unless Mexico did more to slow migration through its country.

Known as the USMCA in English, the new agreement began to be negotiated when López Obrador won Mexican elections two years ago.

It incorporates stronger regulations, especially regarding labor conditions, that required changes to Mexican law.

López Obrador will travel to Washington July 8-9 to meet with Trump and recognize the achievement of the new accord. López Obrador’s first international trip of his presidency has garnered criticism at home, because Trump has been critical of Mexicans and Mexicans fear it could play to Trump’s electoral advantage. López Obrador insists he has no interest in intervening in U.S. domestic politics and the trip is simply to celebrate the new trade accord.

In 2016, Trump, then the Republican nominee, visited President Enrique Peña Nieto despite frequently targeting Mexico in his speeches and insisting that Mexico would pay for his border wall. At the time, López Obrador was extremely critical of Peña Nieto’s invitation to the candidate.

Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard did not provide details of next week’s visit, but said July 8 would be a bilateral encounter with Trump and a July 9 meeting would include Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

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