Mexico's Ambassador Talks About Pros And Cons Of New Trade Deal
San Diego and Tijuana business leaders have heaped praise on the North American Free Trade Agreement. Now they’re lobbying Congress to approve an updated version of the deal, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
KPBS Fronteras reporter Jean Guerrero sat down with Mexico’s Ambassador to the United States, Gerónimo Gutiérrez, to discuss the deal in detail.
Q: President Trump has said that NAFTA was the worst trade deal ever made and that he’s fixed it with this new treaty. As a proponent of the original treaty, can you speak to whether this is a very different treaty in fact?
A: Well I think first of all I would emphasize that this is a very good result certainly for Mexico but it’s a very good result for the NAFTA partners, for Canada, for the United States, and for Mexico. I think at the outset I would emphasize three points: One, it gives certainty to our trade and investment relations among the partners, something that I would say is needed. Secondly, it prompts North America to continue to be the most competitive region in the world and that’s important because the agreement is not only about how much we trade among the partners and how much we invest among ourselves. But it’s also about how do we, how can we better produce together to export to other regions of the world. And I think the treaty does that.
Q: So it’s essentially about growing the relationships that NAFTA established, it’s not necessarily different?
A: Well after 25 years it’s only natural that there are things that needed to be updated, changed, modernized and improved ... and the agreement needed to be modernized. So, for example, we incorporated better provisions with respect to e-commerce, something that was not as important and prevalent 25 years ago and that’s something that benefits the three nations, so that’s certainly an improvement. That’s something that changed. We also — for example on the auto industry — there was an intent to make sure we were as a region better positioned to attract investment, and the North American region would produce more and better cars to export to other regions of the world.
Q: What about in terms of agriculture? I know the original NAFTA contributed in part to some of the waves of illegal immigration that we saw in the 90's because of the conditions that it created for Mexico’s small farmers, the campesinos. Is this treaty different in regards to these small farmers?
A: Well I would beg to differ from that point of view. I’m not sure there’s a very clear and evident causation between that part of immigration from the ag sector in Mexico and the North American Free Trade Agreement. I don’t think that necessarily is the case.
Q: But what about the plummeting prices we saw for commodities?
A: But plummeting prices are not a result of the trade agreement, they’re a result of market conditions worldwide.
A: But there will be a tendency toward industrialization. And it is a reality that Mexico’s small farmers were unable to compete at least in maize, in corn, with the United States’ heavily subsidized agriculture industry. Is this something that is addressed?
A: Well, but see, there’s a whole debate about that. And again I think I would just offer a different view. I’m not saying everything is good and dandy on the Mexico agriculture sector, we certainly face a lot of challenges, but it depends on who you ask. Some small producers in Mexico have managed to become very successful in certain products like tomato, where we have a competitive advantage... like tomatoes, like avocados and other types of vegetables. I think the challenges Mexico faces in the agriculture sector need to be addressed but I’m not sure that, it’s certainly not by restricting trade that it will solve the problem.