MIAMI – Mexican Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray said on Tuesday that while his county is open to updating the North American Free Trade Agreement, it will not accept changes that would reduce economic integration among the United States, Canada and Mexico.
“We don’t want it to stop being a free-trade treaty,” Luis Videgaray said during a town-hall interview with The Miami Herald’s Andres Oppenheimer that also addressed the wall US President Donald Trump wants to build on the Mexican border to keep out “criminals.”
He cited a telephone conversation between Trump and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in which the US leader said that though he had been inclined to scrap NAFTA, he instead decided to embark on negotiations aimed at achieving a “good accord” for all parties.
“Based on those premises, we continue working,” Mexico’s top diplomat said, pointing out that a failure of the negotiations would have a significant impact on producers and exporters in the US.
Last year, Texas alone sold $95 billion worth of goods and services to Mexico, Videgaray said.
Oppenheimer asked the foreign secretary whether the “Trump effect” might boost the chances of nationalist and anti-US candidates in Mexico’s 2018 presidential and congressional elections.
“The risk is there and it’s very real,” Videgaray said. “If Mexicans begin to feel a permanent aggression (from the US), that can be reflected in politics.”
At the same time, he noted that while Trump has talked about mass deportations of undocumented migrants, the administration of predecessor Barack Obama deported a record 2.8 million Mexicans.
So far, Videgaray said, the difference in immigration policy between Obama and Trump is more “qualitative” than quantitative, but he acknowledged that the rhetoric of the new administration “generates fear in the Mexican community in the United States.”
“There is a lot of fear and mistrust toward authorities. That is serious,” the foreign secretary said.
Regarding Trump’s proposed border wall, Videgaray said that as a sovereign country, the US has the “right to protect its border” as it sees fit.
Even so, building the wall would still be “an unfriendly gesture” toward Mexico, Videgaray said.
“We will not discuss the wall, we will not collaborate in any way, neither financially nor in any other way,” the Mexican official said, alluding to Trump’s repeated assertions that Mexico will pay the costs of construction.