January 23, 2017 / 5:51 PM / in 9 months

Mexico targets free trade with U.S. and Canada, seeks other pacts

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico will fight for free trade with NAFTA partners Canada and the United States in talks with the new U.S. government, as well as seek bilateral trade deals with other nations, President Enrique Pena Nieto said on Monday.

A view of the access to the Tornillo-Guadalupe international bridge in the municipality of Guadalupe, in the Juarez Valley, Mexico January 18, 2017. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo

In a keynote foreign policy speech aimed at reassuring the Mexican public about the impact of Donald Trump’s presidency, Pena Nieto set out his priorities and underlined the importance of frank, open dialogue with the new U.S. administration.

“Neither confrontation nor submission. The solution is dialogue and negotiation,” Pena Nieto told business and political leaders at his official residence. “Trade between the three countries should be free of any tariff or quota.”

Trump wants to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement between Mexico, the United States and Canada in order, he says, to bring back jobs, and has threatened to dump the accord if the talks do not yield a “fair” deal.

Separately, on Monday, a businessman named by Trump to head a business advisory council, Stephen Schwarzman, said Canada has a “very special status” and is not a target of changes sought to the NAFTA accord.

Trump, who took office on Friday, has threatened to slap hefty taxes on companies that produce in Mexico for the U.S. market, and to build a border wall to combat illegal immigrants that he says Mexico will pay for.

A gap in the Mexico-U.S. border fence is pictured from the municipality of Praxedis G. Guerrero, in the Juarez Valley, Mexico, January 16, 2017. REUTERS/Tomas Bravo

“Mexico doesn’t believe in walls. Our country believes in bridges,” Pena Nieto said.

Pena Nieto listed 10 objectives for talks with Trump, including getting U.S. pledges to guarantee Mexican migrants’ rights, ensuring the free flow of remittances from the United States into Mexico, and adding sections on telecommunications and energy to NAFTA.

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During his election campaign, Trump had threatened to stop allowing wire transfers of money out of the United States from Mexican nationals unless Mexico agreed to fund a border wall.

Mexico will also immediately seek bilateral deals with countries that signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal, Pena Nieto said. Trump formally withdrew the United States from the TPP on Monday.

Pena Nieto said Mexico would work more closely with Brazil and Argentina and other Latin American countries, as well as strengthening its business ties with Asia.

This week, senior U.S. and Mexico officials will meet in Washington to discuss trade, security and immigration. Pena Nieto and Trump will meet at the end of January.

Mexico's peso MXN= was little changed by Pena Nieto's announcements. The currency was gaining ground for a second session in a row after Trump refrained from specifically mentioning Mexico in his inauguration speech last Friday or taking initial actions that would disrupt trade with Mexico.

Additional reporting by Mexico City Newsroom; Writing by Christine Murray; Editing by Simon Gardner and Leslie Adler

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