WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met his Canadian counterpart for the first time on Wednesday for talks that touched on the trilateral NAFTA trade agreement, which President Donald Trump wants to renegotiate.
As well as talking to Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, Tillerson is also due to meet with Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray, according to a statement from the Mexican government.
Both Canada and Mexico send the bulk of their exports to the United States and could be crippled by major changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump has called “a disaster”.
Asked about the possibility that the United States could push for new border tariffs on Canadian goods in the NAFTA talks, Freeland said she had made clear her strong opposition to the idea during her discussions with U.S. officials.
“If such an idea were ever to come into being, Canada would respond appropriately,” she told reporters on a conference call, stressing Ottawa did not yet know what the U.S. opening position would be.
The Mexican statement said that in his meetings with Tillerson and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly on Wednesday, Videgaray would address issues including the protection of Mexicans in the United States, migration, and security and border infrastructure.
El Canciller @LVidegaray se reúne en #Washington con funcionarios del Gobierno de #EUA. #ComunicadoSRE https://t.co/RSVL8QFEwN pic.twitter.com/5sFqQMAF6f
— SRE México (@SRE_mx) February 8, 2017
Trump made free trade deals a major target during his campaign for the presidency. He says NAFTA, formally signed in 1994, has harmed American workers.
The deal aimed at removing tariff barriers between Canada, Mexico and the United States.
Canada is trying to persuade the new administration and senior politicians that its especially close ties with the United States mean the country should be spared protectionist measures.
“In making the case for how balanced and mutually beneficial our economic relationship was, I really felt I was pushing on an open door with everyone I spoke to,” said Freeland.