MEXICO CITY –Mexico could leave the North American Free Trade Agreement if talks on re-negotiating it are unsatisfactory, officials said Tuesday ahead of scheduled meetings in Washington with the Trump administration.
Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo suggested in comments to the Televisa network that Mexico would be in a weak negotiating position unless it makes clear it won’t accept just anything in order to preserve the three-nation trade pact.
Guajardo said “it would be impossible to sell something here at home unless it has clear benefits for Mexico.”
“If we are going to go for something that is less than what we have, it makes no sense to stay,” Guajardo said.
“We are not going to accept just any negotiation,” Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray said later, after meeting with the Senate political co-ordination committee. “There always exists the possibility of abandoning the treaty and governing commerce between Mexico and the United States based on the rules of the World Trade Organization.”
“That will not be our initial proposal … but naturally it is an option,” he added.
Guajardo and Videgary are both headed to the United States for talks Wednesday and Thursday.
U.S. President Donald Trump has pledged to renegotiate the pact between the U.S., Mexico and Canada and slap tariffs on imports.
While Mexico runs a trade surplus with the United States, many sectors in the country also want greater restrictions on U.S. imports, particularly farm products that many say have helped impoverish subsistence-level Mexican farmers.
Guajardo reiterated Mexico’s insistence that it will not pay for a border wall that Trump has promised to build and said it would not accept any tax or restrictions on the money sent home by Mexican migrants.
He also said that “in the case that there are deportations (of Mexican migrants), as there have been, they have to be orderly and clearly defined.”
Trump suggested during his campaign that he would step up deportations of migrants living illegally in the United States.
Remittances to Mexico amount to about $25 billion annually and have become a major source of foreign revenue for the country. Trump has suggested that the U.S. might retain some of that money to help pay for a wall between the countries.
Trump spoke Monday of upcoming meetings scheduled with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, saying, “We’re going to start some negotiations having to do with NAFTA.”
Pena Nieto said the same day that he is ready to negotiate at a Jan. 31 meeting with Trump, and sought to chart a middle course: “Neither confrontation nor submission. Dialogue is the solution.”