Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Trudeau Talks Trade with Mexican President Ahead of Meeting with Pence in Peru

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Trudeau Talks Trade with Mexican President Ahead of Meeting with Pence in Peru

Article excerpt

PM talks trade with Mexico ahead of meeting with Pence

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LIMA, Peru - Two of the three political leaders with the most at stake at the NAFTA table huddled Friday behind closed doors, their most senior trade lieutenants alongside, in hopes of unlocking a mutually beneficial solution to the cross-border conundrum posed by U.S. President Donald Trump.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto gathered on the sidelines of a major international summit in Peru's capital, along with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Mexican Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer pulled out of the summit at the last minute, sending his deputy, C. J. Mahoney, in his place.

The sit-down, the first face-to-face between the two leaders since November, comes at a critical time, with Canada, Mexico and the U.S. all looking for a breakthrough in the ongoing effort to update the North American Free Trade Agreement -- and Trump's wild-card trade strategies doing little to clear the air.

It was also a chance for Trudeau to take stock of Mexico's position -- and perhaps share strategies -- before the prime minister heads into a meeting Saturday with U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence.

Pence is in Peru instead of Trump, who was originally scheduled to attend but decided against it at the last minute, ostensibly to deal with the American response to a chemical attack in Syria.

Freeland described the conversation between Trudeau and Pena Nieto as "a good one," even as she expressed optimism about the state of NAFTA negotiations, which are continuing in Washington this weekend.

"Canada and Mexico found that we're very much on the same page in believing that now is the moment to very, very intensely engage and to really enter a new stage, a new rhythm, a new level of negotiations," she told reporters after the sitdown.

The meeting between the Canadian and Mexican leaders came one day after U.S. officials indicated they were willing to soften their demands on autos, which Trump followed by warning that he was willing to renegotiate "forever."

Freeland refused to speculate on these apparently competing messages, even as she said all trade negotiations are subject to "moments of drama."

"There certainly have been moments of drama in the past," she said of the NAFTA talks. "And I will make a prediction ... there are more dramatic moments (coming) in the days to come. And we should not be distracted by those."

Trudeau's meetings with Pena Nieto and Pence come as the three are attending the Summit of the Americas, which is held every four years and brings together leaders from across the Western Hemisphere.

The prime minister started his day Friday by meeting Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra, who served as Peru's ambassador to Canada before the previous president was forced to resign over a scandal last month. …

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