Scrapping NAFTA could jeopardize joint efforts with the U.S. to curb illegal immigration and drug trafficking, Mexico’s foreign minister warned Tuesday.
The remarks came amid escalating rhetoric over the future of the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement. A fourth round of renegotiation talks between the U.S., Mexico and Canada are scheduled for Wednesday in Washington.
U.S. President Donald Trump, who frequently railed against Mexico on the campaign trail, has repeatedly threatened to kill the pact, most recently telling Forbes magazine: “I happen to think NAFTA will have to be terminated.”
Until Tuesday, Mexican officials, eager to preserve the agreement, have largely avoided engaging with Trump, fearful of jeopardizing renegotiations.
Speaking at a Senate hearing in Mexico City, Luis Videgaray said that while his country wanted a deal, its negotiators were also prepared to walk away — and that the unraveling of NAFTA wouldn’t be “the end of the world” for his country.
“We always have to be ready to get up from the table. This is a logical posture in any negotiation. It’s also a principle of dignity and sovereignty,” he said.
“Mexico is much bigger than NAFTA and we have to be ready for any scenario in the negotiations.”
Videgaray also warned ending the deal could affect other aspects of the bilateral relationship, including combating drug-trafficking and illegal immigration.
The anti-NAFTA comments from Trump, who sees the U.S. trade deficit with Mexico as unfair, have rattled Mexican industry and sent the peso plunging.
The prospect of exiting the deal has also alarmed some U.S. businesses.
On Tuesday, the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a powerful business lobby, slammed the Trump administration’s “poison pill proposals” that could kill the deal.
Speaking in Mexico City, Thomas Donohue said the ending NAFTA, which his organization believes is vital to American manufacturing and agriculture, could threaten regional security.