Fox Calls for Closer NAFTA Integration
Mexican president alludes to a ''destiny that is common to the three of us''
OTTAWA, Canada - 10/29/04 - Mexican President Vicente Fox has called for closer economic integration among Canada, the US, and his own country to challenge China's rising economic power, reports the Toronto Globe & Mail.
"All three of us are losing jobs to China," he said in an interview with the paper. "We, in a way, have a destiny that is common to the three of us."
Fox said there is reason to believe that by building on the 10-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the three countries can compete against China.
Some companies, he said, have already become "NAFTA companies," with parts of their operations in each of the three countries.
"The three of our countries were losing jobs to China, and through this strategic association, and working as NAFTA corporations, we've regained competitiveness and regained market share throughout the world" to specifically meet the challenge, he told the paper.
Fox said "a refined NAFTA could encourage this trend."
For example, he said, "the agreement could be changed to make it easier for a company to have its financial operations in one member country, its research and development in a second, and its manufacturing in a third, whichever was most economically advantageous."
The Mexican government has been particularly concerned about the loss of labor-intensive manufacturing and assembling jobs to China where wages are lower, Fox told the paper.
But strengthening the strategic partnership of NAFTA, and even broadening the agreement into what the Mexican president called "NAFTA plus," would, he said, "help protect the economies of all three countries."
In a speech earlier in the day, Fox told the Canadian Parliament that he has a vision for transforming North America into a "region of co-operation and integration."
Mexican officials, he said, are particularly keen on closer integration of the energy sector, noting that Canada and Mexico are major petroleum producers and the US is an enormous consumer.
Mexico also wants closer three-way co-operation on international security and anti-terrorism strategies, he added.
"The time has come to reflect on the best way to build a new community of North America…I am also convinced that Canada and Mexico have much to contribute to the design and operation of this regional co-operation and integration scheme," Fox told the Canadian politicians.
But Prime Minister Paul Martin, whose weakened minority government is conducting a foreign-policy review, provided few words of encouragement for the Mexican chief executive.
For the moment, the Globe & Mail reported, the Martin government is going no further than announcing a "Canada-Mexico Partnership" agreement to encourage private- and public-sector political and economic discussions at senior levels.
Fox is on a three-day working visit to Canada to promote trade and investment. He brought along a large delegation that included seven cabinet ministers.
In his interview with the widely-circulated paper, Fox said his opposition to the US "invasion" of Iraq "has not caused any lasting damage to Mexico's relations with the administration of US President George W. Bush."
Nor was he especially concerned that Senator John Kerry, the Democratic challenger to President Bush in next week's presidential election, has been a harsh critic of NAFTA.
Mexico has an established relationship with the US that is "very, very institutional. It's not related to names or persons," and ongoing programs, such as NAFTA won't be affected, Fox said.
Moreover, he added, "politicians' statements during an election campaign are one thing, and our relationship and our working together is thoroughly apart from elections."
The Mexican delegation had hoped to get Ottawa to expand a program that allows low-skill migrant workers from Mexico to work in Canada.
More than 10,000 Mexican fruit pickers and farm hands come to Canada each year to work. Fox said he would like Canada to broaden the program to include workers in construction and the tourism-service industries.
But Ottawa simply agreed to a pilot project and to continue to study the issue.
The low-skill migrant labor program with Canada is not terribly important economically for Mexico. Annual remittances amount to about C$80million annually.
However, some Mexican officials say the program is very important diplomatically as a model for a possible similar agreement with the US, which employs hundreds of thousands of temporary Mexican workers each year.
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