March 17, 2018 / 5:06 AM / a year ago

Mexico agriculture minister steps down to join Meade campaign

FILE PHOTO: Mexico's Agriculture Secretary Jose Calzada looks on during an interview with Reuters in Mexico City, Mexico February 16, 2017. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican Agriculture Minister Jose Calzada said on Friday he had stepped down to join the presidential campaign of Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate Jose Antonio Meade.

“We’re off with our friend (Jose Antonio Meade) on his campaign,” Calzada said on Twitter not long after the Mexican presidency had announced he had resigned from his post.

Calzada has been a strong proponent of maintaining the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and his staff said he forged a solid relationship with his U.S. counterpart Sonny Perdue during the ongoing negotiations to rework the accord.

Meade’s campaign has struggled to gain traction, and he is trailing in third in most of the latest opinion polls, well behind the front-runner, leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Calzada’s move also comes just before the PRI is due to finalize its lists of candidates for the new Congress. That Congress will be elected alongside the next president on July 1, and Calzada would have needed to resign to be eligible.

Jorge Armando Narvaez, Calzada’s deputy, would assume the responsibility for running the ministry, the office of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said in a statement.

Pena Nieto is barred by law from seeking a second term.

Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Nick Macfie

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