Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will aim to advance Canada’s position on the North American free trade talks when he meets with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence here over the next two days.
There had been hopes leading up to Trudeau’s visit to Peru, where he and the others are attending the Summit of the Americas, that Canada, Mexico and the U.S. would emerge with some sort of North American free trade agreement.
While those appear to have been dashed by U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to stay home to deal with Syria, the chance to sit down with Pena Nieto on Friday and Pence on Saturday is nonetheless important.
Much has changed in the NAFTA negotiations since Trudeau last met with Pena Nieto in November, and this will also be one of their last formal meetings as Mexico prepares to elect a new president in July.
The meeting will thus provide an important opportunity for the two leaders to update each other on their respective positions and look for a way to advance talks at this critical time.
That job looked to be a little easier after U.S. trade officials surprised many by indicating on Thursday that they were willing to soften their demands on automobiles, before Trump warned he was willing to “renegotiate forever.”
Trudeau will look for clarity when he meets Saturday with Pence, who was sent to Peru in Trump’s stead.
NAFTA will only be one trade deal on the agenda, particularly after Trump ordered his officials on Thursday to look at whether the U.S. should rejoin the Trans Pacific Partnership after pulling out last year.
Canada is one of 11 countries involved in the massive free-trade bloc, which also includes Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
Trudeau is scheduled to meet with the presidents of Chile and Peru, in addition to Pena Nieto, and at least some of the talk is expected to touch on the partnership and an American re-entry into a revamped TPP.
The prime minister will also address prominent business leaders from across the Americas in the hopes of attracting new investment to Canada.
The prime minister will seek to leverage some of the many free trade agreements that Canada has in the region and around the world to entice businesses to set up shop.
The pitch could face some difficulty, however, in large part because of the significant amount of uncertainty around the NAFTA negotiations.
Peru is the first stop in a major foreign tour for Trudeau, who also plans to visit France and the United Kingdom, the latter to participate in a Commonwealth meeting.
The prime minister was scheduled to fly directly from Peru to France, where is scheduled to address the French National Assembly.
But he will make a quick stop in Ottawa on Sunday to meet with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and B.C. Premier John Horgan, who have been locked in a bitter dispute over Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline.
Trudeau will continue on to Paris after the stop in Ottawa.
Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press