Mexico’s Economy Minister expressed frustration over what he said was the Obama administration’s delay in adding the nation to Pacific trade talks.
Mexico’s entry to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a sweeping deal that seeks to boost trade links between the Americas and Asia, is already supported by the private sector in all nine countries involved in the talks, Economy Minister Bruno Ferrari said in an interview. Mexico is closer to winning approval than Japan and Canada, who are also seeking to join negotiations, Ferrari said.
U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk met with officials from Mexico and Canada this month in Washington during a visit by Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The three nations are already bound together by the North American Free Trade Agreement that took effect in 1994. Standing beside his Nafta partners in the Rose Garden, President Barack Obama said the Pacific deal’s current partners are discussing how new members can meet the accord’s standards.
“We are waiting for the Trade Representative’s office to go to the next level,” Ferrari said on the sidelines of a World Economic Forum event in Puerto Vallarta on April 20. “For some reason this has been delayed. Until everyone is in agreement, and the U.S. is missing, we cannot advance.”
‘Additional Work Ahead’
Carol Guthrie, a spokeswoman for Kirk, said the U.S. hasn’t decided whether to support Mexico, Japan and Canada’s bid to join the talks and is going through “a detailed and thorough process” to decide if they’re ready to meet the “high standards and objectives” of the Pacific trade deal. The nine current nations must reach a consensus for new members to join.
“We are undertaking a detailed and thorough process to evaluate the readiness of Mexico, as well as Japan and Canada, to meet the high standards and objectives of the TPP,” Guthrie said yesterday in an e-mail. “While we have made progress, we and other current TPP members have additional work ahead, including further consultations on issues that have emerged through our analysis and from input from Congress and stakeholders.”
An accord with the eight other Pacific nations already in talks would be the biggest trade deal for the U.S. since President George H. W. Bush agreed to Nafta two decades ago. Kirk has said that the U.S., the world’s largest economy, wants to reach an agreement this year.
Other nations participating in the talks are Australia, Chile, Peru and Singapore, all of which have separate free-trade agreements with the U.S., as well as Malaysia, New Zealand, Vietnam and Brunei. Japan, Canada and Mexico said in November that they’d like to join the talks.
At the April 2 press conference with Obama, Calderon reiterated Mexico’s interest in joining the talks “as soon as possible,” saying his country “can contribute to a quick and successful conclusion of this project.”
Mexico, Latin America’s second-largest economy, is the largest U.S. trading partner after Canada and China, with $461 billion in goods exchanged last year, according to data from the U.S. Commerce Department. Mexico was the second-biggest buyer of products made in America, behind only Canada, and Mexico sends 80 percent of its exports to its northern neighbor.
Ferrari said pushing for Mexico’s inclusion will be a “very important topic” of his visit to the U.S. this week to meet with officials.