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article imageMexico president-elect backs new trade deal with US, Canada: adviser

By AFP     Oct 1, 2018 in Business

Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has given his blessing to the new US-Canada-Mexico trade deal, his future foreign minister said Monday, as officials indicated it would be signed just before he takes office.

Mexico wants the deal -- known as USMCA, for United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement -- to be signed on November 29 at a G20 meeting in Buenos Aires, where the three countries' heads of state are all expected, Mexico's current Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo told TV network Televisa.

That would be just before Lopez Obrador takes office on December 1.

The anti-establishment leftist had been critical in the past of the trade pact's predecessor, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and all three countries rushed to conclude the update before he came to power.

But since winning election on July 1, Lopez Obrador has been more pragmatic on Mexico's crucial trade relationship with the United States, the destination for more than 80 percent of Mexican exports.

The new deal reached late Sunday "provides certainty to financial markets, and supports investment and job creation in our country," said Lopez Obrador's pick for foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard.

"The deal creates an opportunity for modernization and diversification of our productive sector. It will allow us to maintain the competitiveness of the Mexican manufacturing industry, which will keep its access to the world's largest market," he told a press conference.

He said Lopez Obrador's key demand had been met: respect for "the sovereignty of the Mexican state, particularly over its energy sector."

As for the concessions made by outgoing President Enrique Pena Nieto's government -- including stricter "rules of origin" on the amount of North American content required in the auto sector, and the wages those workers must earn -- he said the new government would seek to offset the "adaptation challenges" with a "new, active industrial policy to strengthen the internal market."

Lopez Obrador's transition team played an active part in the home stretch of the negotiations to update NAFTA, helping seal a US-Mexican deal and then pushing for Canada to be kept inside as well.

Pena Nieto, who is set to sign the deal along with US President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, for his part hailed it as "the achievement of what we proposed from the beginning: a win-win-win agreement."

Guajardo, his economy minister, said negotiators had held firm in the face of Trump's threats to axe what the US president called "the worst deal ever signed."

The Trump administration "thought they could do and undo a lot of things without really understanding the benefits," he said.

"They were thinking the unthinkable. Fortunately, that rhetoric diminished over time."

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