MEXICO CITY – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrived in Mexico Thursday for high-level talks, on the heels of a tense visit to Washington that saw him spar with U.S. President Donald Trump over trade.
His tour of Canada’s partners in the North American Free Trade Agreement comes as negotiators from the three countries meet in the United States for their latest round of what Trump vowed would be “tough” talks on a new version of NAFTA.
Trump has put both Mexico and Canada on the defensive over trade, accusing the former of taking American jobs and the latter of unfair subsidies, and wants to either overhaul or “terminate” NAFTA.
Trade was a touchy subject during Trudeau’s visit to Washington, after the U.S. slapped a 220 percent retaliatory duty on Canadian plane-maker Bombardier’s CS100 and CS300 aircraft over allegations of dumping.
Trudeau in turn threatened to cancel a purchase of 18 fighter jets from American aerospace giant Boeing, saying he had told Trump he “disagreed vehemently” with the U.S. decision.
The prime minister arrives in Mexico looking for a friendly ear in President Enrique Pena Nieto, himself no stranger to hostility from the Trump administration, who will receive Trudeau at the presidential palace with military honors.
Despite their common ground, however, Canada and Mexico are also at odds on some key issues.
Canada, which shares Washington’s concern over competition from cheap Mexican labor, is notably pushing for Mexico to improve workers’ wages under the new NAFTA — something the Pena Nieto administration says should be determined by the market, not dictated by a trade deal.
Pena Nieto sought to send a message that Mexico and Canada are better off working together as they forge ahead in the delicate negotiations with the giant and sometimes grumpy neighbor they both share.
“Canada and Mexico are going through one of the best moments of our relationship,” he wrote in an op-ed published in Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail.
“The government of Mexico will keep working constructively with Canada to further strengthen our relations, achieve mutual benefits and contribute to reaching our shared goal: to make North America the most prosperous and competitive region in the world.”
Trudeau will also visit the Mexican Red Cross, which played a key role in the emergency response after the 7.1 magnitude earthquake that rocked Mexico on Sept. 19.
On Friday, he will give a speech to the Mexican senate, whose approval is needed to ratify any renegotiated version of NAFTA.
Mexico and Canada do some $20 billion a year in bilateral trade.
The figure is dwarfed by their trade with the U.S.: more than $480 billion last year for Mexico and more than $540 billion for Canada.