MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto said on Thursday that his country had accepted Israel’s offer to help it and the United States develop Central America, as Israel and Mexico seek to deepen business ties.
Speaking at a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Pena Nieto added that the two nations had agreed to update their free trade agreement, which was signed in 2000.
“We have agreed to establish and begin the ... negotiations to look over this agreement so that the commercial relationship between both nations intensifies and grows,” he said.
Netanyahu was joined by a business delegation including representatives from communications firm AudioCodes Ltd, cyber security firm Verint Systems Inc and Mer Group, which specializes in telecommunications and cyber security.
In Central America, Pena Nieto said Israel’s assistance could bolster the United States and Mexico’s efforts in the region, particularly in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He noted that Israel brings experience from carrying out development projects in Africa.
The United States and Mexico have been seeking to encourage investment in infrastructure improvements in Central America’s so-called Northern Triangle in an effort to stem migration to the United States.
Netanyahu’s trip marked the first visit to Mexico by a sitting Israeli prime minister, Pena Nieto said. At the close of the news conference, Netanyahu invited Pena Nieto to Jerusalem.
The relationship between the nations was strained earlier this year by a tweet in which Netanyahu appeared to praise U.S. President Donald Trump’s plans to build a wall on the Mexican border. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin later issued a statement apologizing for any misunderstanding.
Reporting by Julia Love and Sharay Angulo; additional reporting by Stefanie Eschenbacher