Mexico Waiting for U.S. Cabinet Appointments for Talks

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By Emily Pickrell

Mexico's diplomatic community urges its government to quietly continue discussions on its trade and political relationship once the U.S. cabinet is complete, despite a cancelled visit between the U.S. and Mexican president, a former senior official said Jan. 27.

The visit, scheduled to take place a little more than a week after Donald Trump became president, had been intended as an initial discussion of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and other areas of mutual interest, but was derailed over disagreement about financing a border wall.

And while tensions seem high, Mexican trade and diplomacy officials still urge their leadership to keep talking, hopefully with their U.S. counterparts on the agency level.

“One of the things we need to do is give this some time—there was no upside in doing the trip next week,” said Arturo Sarukhan, the former Mexican ambassador to the U.S. in the Felipe Calderon administration from 2007 to 2013. He recommended that more substantive discussions on trade should come once many of the positions in the State Department and Department of Commerce have been filled.

“You don't have the number twos and threes in the U.S. agencies that oversee the day-to-day heavy relationship with Mexico,” Sarukhan told Bloomberg BNA. “Mexico needs a strategy to depressurize this as much as possible and continue engaging as much as possible at the agency level.”

Ildefonso Guajardo, Mexico's economy secretary, also said publicly in a Jan. 27 interview with Televisa that official discussions on NAFTA will not be possible until these key U.S. agency positions are filled, noting that the negotiating teams will work to define the terms of any future meeting.

A phone call Jan. 27 between the two leaders indicated that discussions between the trade partners will continue over NAFTA, leading to a possible modification, despite the heated rhetoric arising from the first attempted meeting.

Until a decision is made by both sides on how to move forward, the status quo will be the current agreement.

“As long as NAFTA is not modified, it will be in place,” said Francisco de Rosenzweig, the former undersecretary for foreign trade in the Economy Ministry.

To contact the reporter for this story: Emily Pickrell in Mexico City at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jerome Ashton at jashton@bna.com

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