Excluding Mexico would hurt the Canadian economy: consul

AUSTIN, United States — Canadians shouldn’t be naive enough to believe any deal to exclude Mexico from NAFTA wouldn’t hurt the Canadian economy as well, says the Mexican consul general for Austin, Texas.

Up until now, U.S. President Donald Trump has mostly focused on Mexico when discussing his intentions to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement to make it more advantageous for Americans — or even just scrap it altogether.

But Carlos Gonzales Gutierrez told The Canadian Press it would be in Canada’s best interest to fight to keep NAFTA as a trilateral agreement.

“I am no expert but I do know that our Canadian friends should not be naive to think that the disruption of the supply chains between Mexico and the United States will not affect Canada,” he said at a conference in Austin.

While Trump has previously indicated he expects only minor tweaks to the trade relationship with Canada, U.S. lawmakers urged a get-tough approach on Tuesday in several areas, including the supply-management systems that govern poultry and dairy products.

But regardless of the extent of the talks touching Canada, Gonzales Gutierrez said the country would be negatively affected if Mexico is pushed aside.

In particular, the North American auto industry would be hurt by any disruption to supply, he said.

He also said automation is responsible for the majority of the U.S. job losses that are commonly blamed on NAFTA.

If anything, he said Canada should seek to not only protect NAFTA, but also to enhance it.

“We are not competitors, we are partners,” he said.

“Together, we should compete against other production clusters around the world.”

In advance of the renegotiations, Mexican officials have been working to promote the advantages of the agreement and correct what they say are misconceptions about it.

At a panel discussion at the South by Southwest Conference, Gonzales Gutierrez sought to convince the Texas business community that NAFTA is vital to its interests, given the $200 billion in trade between the two partners each year.

He said Mexico is open to dialogue and ready to “negotiate anything on the table” during the trade talks, but couldn’t say whether that spirit of openness is shared by members of the Trump administration.

“That, I cannot say,” he said with a smile.

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