Canada’s Trudeau defends NAFTA in rare address to Mexican Senate

World Today

Accompanied by Mexican Senate President Ernesto Cordero, right, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau waves upon his arrival to the Mexican Senate, in Mexico City, Friday, Oct. 13, 2017. The issue of Mexico’s persistently low wage rates came up again during Trudeau’s first official visit to Mexico. Trudeau said in a speech to the senate Friday that support for NAFTA “depends on the fruits of this trade being fairly shared.” Mexican auto workers, for example, often earn about $2 per hour, a fraction of the $30 or more per hour made by workers in the other two countries. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ended his two-day state visit to Mexico with a speech to the Mexican Senate. A central theme in his address was salvaging the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the face of American threats withdraw from the pact.

CGTN’s Franc Contreras reports from Mexico City.

On Friday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined a short list of foreign dignitaries to ever address the Mexican Senate. He used the historic opportunity to mention gender equality and indigenous rights, but another topic also featured prominently.

His speech took place as the fourth, and thus far most contentious, round of NAFTA renegotiations continued in the United States. Trudeau’s message was aimed specifically at three nations: the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

“Our economies are closely integrated. We stand together on the world stage. We have a shared vision of progress,” Trudeau said. “Indeed, if you were not our neighbor, you would still be our partner and friend. That, I think, means more than geography ever could.”

The leader received applause from Canadian and Mexican officials alike, including Mexico’s Economy Minister and top NAFTA negotiator Ildefonso Guajardo, who was here instead of leading the Mexican team at the current round of talks near Washington, D.C.

American NAFTA negotiators are taking an increasingly hard line stance, insisting that 50 percent of all North American vehicles – including those assembled in Canada and Mexico – be made in the U.S.

The U.S. also wants a so-called “sunset” provision requiring a full review of NAFTA every five years. Both Canada and Mexico oppose that idea.

Many Mexicans consider Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first official visit to their nation as a sort of rescue mission for NAFTA. At a news conference on Thursday, the auditorium was filled with symbols of bilateral unity. Among those present – yellow-helmeted Mexican firefighters who fought Canadian wildfires.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said NAFTA renegotiations offer opportunities to make all three North American nations more competitive, while also improving salaries in Mexico.

“Mexico does not want to be competitive by having low salaries. Mexico wants to be competitive by having a well-trained labor force, for being productive and for having the capacity to compete with other nations… for the reason of including supply chains allowed by this Free Trade Agreement,” Nieto said.

Both leaders emphasized that their bilateral relationship is safe, no matter what becomes of NAFTA. But privately, both Canada and Mexico are creating back-up plans in case the U.S. decides to end the trade agreement.