By Agence France-Presse
Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s advisers on Monday hailed a new trade deal with the United States, saying it represented progress on energy and wages for Mexico’s workers.
“We see the agreement announced today as a positive step because it reduces the uncertainty about our economy and also takes into account the concerns raised by the president-elect’s team,” said future foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard.
Lopez Obrador is a leftist free-trade skeptic, and his landslide victory in Mexico’s July 1 elections had raised doubts about the future of the ongoing renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
However, his transition team has been taking part in the talks and gave their blessing to the two-way deal announced between Washington and Mexico City.
Ebrard said the preliminary deal — which will now be presented to Canada, the third member of NAFTA — represented progress “especially related to the Mexican energy sector, labor conditions and wages for our workers.”
It also “maintains trilateral arenas for resolving disputes and certainty about the agreement itself in the medium term,” he said in a joint press conference with future economy minister Graciela Marquez Colin at Lopez Obrador’s offices in Mexico City.
The comments alluded to many of the thorniest issues that had been dividing the negotiating teams.
Lopez Obrador, who takes office on December 1, has been reluctant to continue outgoing president Enrique Pena Nieto’s opening of the Mexican energy sector, complicating negotiations on the energy portion of the deal.
Low wages for Mexican workers are meanwhile a sore spot for both the United States and Canada — and for Lopez Obrador himself, who vowed to bring them closer in line with what American and Canadian workers earn.
The talks had also stumbled over US President Donald Trump’s bid to eliminate NAFTA’s dispute resolution mechanism and introduce a “sunset clause” requiring the three countries to renew the deal every five years.
The three countries have been renegotiating NAFTA for just over a year at the behest of Trump, who calls the 1994 trade pact a “terrible deal” that he blames for sending US manufacturing jobs to Mexico.
In announcing the deal, Trump suggested he might cut Ottawa out of the agreement reached with Mexico and added that he wanted to change the name of the North American Free Trade Agreement because it has “bad connotations.”
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto urged Canada to get on board, tweeting he had told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by phone that a final, three-way deal was possible this week.
Pena Nieto also spoke with Trump on the phone, in a conversation televised live from the Oval Office.
The Mexican president’s office said the two-way deal “reflects a balance between both countries’ interests” and “brings certainty” about the economy.