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11:07 pm - Friday November 17, 2017

Mexico says called Trump’s bluff when he eyed NAFTA exit

Agencies, Mexico City

Mexico said it had called US President Donald Trump’s bluff over his suggestion he only decided to stay in the North American Free Trade Agreement as a favor to the leaders of Mexico and Canada after they asked him to renegotiate the deal.

However, Mexico’s government said it had sent a very different message to the United States during a crisis over NAFTA’s future late last month, when Trump considered starting the six-month process for withdrawing from the accord.

“The message was: if you guys think we’re going to start negotiations with the trigger pulled on a US exit in six months, forget about it!” Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo told an audience at the Mexico Business Forum. “If you do that, just get out already – because there’s no way we’re negotiating under those conditions,” he said.

Guajardo said talk of the United States preparing to leave NAFTA was likely part of a strategy to press Congress to approve Trump’s pick for US trade representative. While Mexico and Canada helped change Trump’s mind, so did members of his cabinet, U.S. lawmakers and US producers that would be hurt by a US exit from NAFTA – showing the limits to Trump’s unilateral moves, the minister argued.

Guajardo said the plan to trigger a US withdrawal of NAFTA was done “in desperation, which occurs very frequently these days in those parts” – an apparent jab at the way Trump has rolled out some of his key policy proposals.

Mexico’s ties with the United States have been strained by Trump’s repeated pledge to dump NAFTA if he cannot secure better terms for US workers and industry in a renegotiation. The rhetoric has encouraged efforts by Mexico to diversify its economy away from dependence on the United States.

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