Canada to Mexico on NAFTA: You might be on your own

A driver leans out the cabin window while waiting in a queue for border customs control to cross into U.S. at the World Trade Bridge in Nuevo Laredo

CALGARY, Canada — Canada
will focus on preserving its U.S.
trade ties during talks to renegotiate
NAFTA and may not be able to
help Mexico avoid being targeted by
the Trump administration, Canadian
government sources say.”We love our Mexican friends.
But our national interests come first
and the friendship comes second,” a
source said on the sidelines of a cabinet
retreat in Calgary, Alberta.”The two are not mutually exclusive,”
the source added.The comments are some of the
starkest yet by Canadian officials,
who are increasingly convinced
Mexico will suffer the most damage
from changes to the North American
Free Trade Agreement.President Donald Trump last
Sunday said he planned talks soon
to begin renegotiating NAFTA, under
which Canada and Mexico send
most of their exports to the United
States.The Canadian sources stressed
Ottawa has not taken any final
decision on how to approach the
NAFTA talks, since Trump’s opening
stance is largely unknown.The government dismisses the
idea that Canada will formally
abandon Mexico. Foreign Minister
Chrystia Freeland said on Tuesday
that Canada supported NAFTA as
a trilateral agreement and noted
that Canadian Prime Minister Justin
Trudeau had talked to Mexican
President Enrique Pena Nieto over
the weekend.That said, the government
sources noted Mexico and Canada
would appear to have little in common.
Trump is unhappy about the
large U.S. deficit with Mexico and
has promised to punish firms with
manufacturing bases there.”Our negotiating positions are
totally different. Mexico is being
hung out of an skyscraper window
by its feet,” said a second government
source.”Mexico is in a terrible, terrible
position. We are not,” said another
Canadian person involved on the
trade file.Officials familiar with diplomatic
contacts between Mexico and
Canada said there has been no talk
of creating a joint front against the
United States over NAFTA on the
grounds that such a move would
raise tensions and be counterproductive.Bilateral trade is critical for Canada,
which sends 75 percent of its
exports to the United States. Statistics
Canada data for 2015 show two-way
trade in goods with the United
States totaled C$760 billion ($580
billion) compared to just C$26 billion
with Mexico.Canada has a “very special status”
and is unlikely to be hit hard
by changes to NAFTA, the head of a
business advisory council to Trump
said on Monday.Derek Burney, a former Canadian
ambassador to Washington,
told CTV News on Monday that
Canada should distance itself from
Mexico on NAFTA.”We have security agreements,
both continental and multi-lateral
— Mexico does not. Mexico has
a huge border problem with the
United States in terms of immigration
and drugs — Canada does
not,” he said.