Economy Secretary Says Government Will Postpone Negotiations of New Trade Agreements

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President Vicente Fox's administration is considering a request from a handful of business organizations to impose a two- or three-year moratorium on negotiating new trade agreements because recent accords have not been as beneficial for Mexico as originally intended. "Frankly, if we continue signing accords with countries so that they can export more to Mexico, and we're not exporting more to them, it doesn't end up being very convenient for Mexico," said Carlos Rojas, president of the Consejo Mexicano de Comercio Exterior (COMCE). COMCE was joined in the request by the Consejo Coordinador Empresarial (CCE), the Confederacion de Camaras Industriales (CONCAMIN), and the Confederacion de Camaras Nacionales de Comercio (CONCANACO).

The request found a sympathetic ear in Economy Secretary Fernando Canales Clariond, who pledged that Mexico would halt efforts to enter into new accords after current negotiations on a bilateral accord with Japan are concluded. Canales said the pledge does not preclude Mexico from meeting its commitment to form part of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). "We consider that we have enough free-trade agreements at this stage of Mexico's development," said Canales.

"We want to take full advantage of the opportunities provided by the agreements we already have, thereby strengthening the domestic market," the Secretaria de Economia (SE) said, expanding on Canales' comments.

The government's position implies that Mexico would place on the back burner discussions on bilateral agreements with Argentina, Panama, Paraguay, Ecuador, Belize, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, South Korea, Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand.

Foreign Relations Secretariat offers conflicting position

It is not clear that Canales' position is supported by other members of the administration, including President Fox. Just a few days after the economy secretary made his statements, officials at the Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores (SRE) said the Fox government has made no decision to put negotiations on the back burner.

The comments from SRE officials coincided with an announcement from Fox that his government was negotiating agreements with individual members of the Southern Cone Common Market (MERCOSUR) as a first step toward eventually completing an accord with the South American trade bloc.

"We're in agreement to begin negotiating, holding dialogues, and advancing on this MERCOSUR-Mexico accord," Fox said shortly after formalizing a bilateral agreement with Uruguay. "Certainly, we will soon have it."

This means that negotiations with Argentina and Paraguay would not be set aside and that the Fox administration would pursue a full accord with Brazil. Mexico and Brazil already agreed on the parameters for negotiations on a bilateral agreement but had not actually committed to negotiations (see SourceMex, 2002-06-19).

Mexico's agreement with Uruguay eliminates tariffs for a large number of products traded between the two countries and is expected to double annual bilateral trade to US$200 million, Uruguayan officials said. …