Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland leaves the stage with United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, right, and Mexico's Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo Villarrea after delivering statements to the media during the sixth round of negotiations for a new North American Free Trade Agreement in Montreal on January 29, 2018. (Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Freeland, Morneau and Carr head to Mexico for NAFTA talks

Three high-profile Liberal cabinet ministers will travel to Mexico next week for meetings with officials in both outgoing and incoming administrations to discuss the stalled negotiations over the renewal of the North American Free Trade Agreement, officials with Global Affairs Canada announced Friday.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Jim Carr, the newly appointed minister of International Trade Diversification, will visit Mexico City on July 25 for meetings with outgoing President Enrique Peña Nieto and his team.

They will also meet with President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his team, officials said.

“Ties between Canada and Mexico have never been stronger,” Freeland said in a statement. “We look forward to sitting down with President Peña Nieto next week as well as holding our first meeting with president-elect López Obrador.”

Sticking together on NAFTA

Presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador gestures as he addresses supporters after polls closed in the presidential election, in Mexico City, Mexico July 1, 2018. (Edgard Garrido /REUTERS)

Negotiations on renewing the free trade agreement between the three North American neighbours, which began nearly a year ago, have stalled because of disagreements over U.S. demands for greater American content in cars produced in North America and a sunset clause that would see the trade agreement automatically expire in five years if it’s not renewed.

U.S. President Donald Trump has indicated on multiple occasions that if no deal can be reached, he would prefer to tear up NAFTA completely and sign separate bilateral trade deals with Canada and Mexico.

However, both Mexico and Canada oppose entering into bilateral agreements with their much larger partner and would prefer a trilateral agreement that allows the two countries to even the scale somewhat when dealing with Washington.

“Working together, we will navigate immediate challenges while staying focused on our goal of achieving long-term growth that benefits everyone,” Morneau said.

Lopez Obrador, who takes office in December, has indicated he will be respectful of the current government’s NAFTA negotiators and that his transition team will seek to join the trade talks.

Carr said Canada too is eager to build on its significant achievements with the current Mexican government and “together with the new administration strengthen the bilateral and multilateral relationships that diversify our economies and offer greater opportunities to more of our citizens.”

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