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Feb. 18 — Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper held bilateral talks ahead of Wednesday's summit with U.S. President Barack Obama where the three leaders will discuss and celebrate the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Peña Nieto hailed the 20 years of increasing bilateral trade and diplomatic relations between Mexico and Canada and said in a speech that both countries will work to expand trade, business and investment.
“Mexico and Canada enjoy a strong trade relationship and we agree that we should continue to work to strengthen the relationship between our two nations, increase trade promotion and seek an even bigger economic integration and expanded trade flow between the countries in the NAFTA region,” Peña Nieto told guests at a gala dinner held in Harper's honor.
Harper, speaking in English, Spanish and French, said that since NAFTA took force, Canada, Mexico and the U.S. have “come remarkably closer” to establishing a region truly operating under free trade rules.
Mexican officials attending the talks said Mexico and Canada had agreed to work to expand bilateral cooperation in multiple areas. An official at the Economy Ministry said the two countries placed special “focus on enhancing diplomatic cooperation and trade in agriculture.”
Several officials also said the ongoing trade dispute between Mexico and Canada on one side against the U.S. over U.S. origin labeling rules for livestock (227 ITD, 11/25/13) is expected to be a key issue when the two leaders meet with Obama Feb. 18 in Toluca, a city located about on hour from Mexico City.
“Mexico and Canada are totally in line about the importance of getting concrete results and advances from the U.S. on the COOL issue and see the dispute as one of the most pressing issues which will be a priority at Wednesday's talks,” the official at the ministry told Bloomberg BNA, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The two leaders agree that Obama will have to show a strong sign of good faith to find a solution to this dispute which already has been going on far too long and U.S. opposition to this could become a deal breaker in the talks of the summit,” said the official.
Government officials and trade analysts agreed that the meeting between Mexico and Canada one day before Obama joins the summit could send a signal that the two smaller partners in NAFTA are making good on promises of increased and more regular talks.
Analysts and government officials also said that it is expected the three leaders will work hard to come out with a joint statement on reaching consensus for finalizing the negotiations between the three nations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
“There is no doubt that the TPP will be at the top of the agenda, and it is well known among the governments that President Obama is eagerly pushing for the three NAFTA countries to come out with a strong joint statement, preferably that the three have reached an agreement on the TPP which would send a strong signal to the other TPP partner countries,” one trade analyst told Bloomberg BNA.
The 12 partner countries in the TPP include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the U.S.
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