US VP discusses NAFTA with leaders of Mexico and Canada

US VP discusses NAFTA with leaders of Mexico and Canada

US VP discusses NAFTA with leaders of Mexico and Canada

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence held brief bilateral talks with the leaders of Mexico and Canada on April 14  about the state of play in their NAFTA renegotiations, saying he was “encouraged” by recent progress towards a deal.

The discussions on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas in Peru came as U.S. officials said they believed they were narrowing differences over a revised North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), 24 years after its inception.

But U.S. relations with Mexico had soured in recent weeks as U.S. President Donald Trump has sought to link the trade talks to Mexican efforts to stop migrants illegally crossing the border into the U.S., and ordered National Guard troops to the border.

Reporters traveling with Pence said the vice president first saw Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and then met with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto half an hour later.

Pence’s demeanor with Trudeau was notably warmer than with Pena Nieto.

“We are neighbors, we are cherished friends,” Pence said after shaking hands with the Canadian leader.

“We think we’re close” on a new NAFTA arrangement, Pence said.  

“We are encouraged with the progress of our negotiations, and we are hopeful that we can conclude a successful renegotiation.”

Trudeau echoed Pence’s assessment, telling reporters he believed “good progress” was being made on NAFTA.

“There is a definite positive momentum,” he said, adding there was “potential progress” on issues related to the auto sector.

“We will continue to work hard at the negotiating table, we will continue to negotiate in good faith and hope to reach a win-win-win renegotiation of NAFTA.”

With Pena Nieto, meanwhile, Pence said: “I look forward to a discussion not only on NAFTA but on a broad range of issues.”   

The Mexican leader emphasized the need to talk about “the bilateral relationship we want to have of cooperation and mutual respect.” 

Neither man responded when reporters asked questions about the wall Trump wants to build along the U.S.-Mexico border, or if Pena Nieto still rejected Trump’s demand that Mexico pay for the barrier.

Later, Pence told reporters that the meetings were “very productive.”