Mexico names veteran trade negotiator to lead its NAFTA talks

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico has named Kenneth Smith as its chief negotiator for high-stakes talks set to begin next month aimed at revamping the 23-year-old NAFTA free trade pact linking Mexico, Canada and the United States, a senior trade official said on Monday.

Smith is a veteran Mexican trade policy expert and currently serves as director of the Trade and North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Office at the Mexican embassy in Washington.

Smith started his career with the Mexican government working for Mexico’s original NAFTA negotiating team.

“He’s been working with us since 1993... he’s had a long career working on trade, having passed through the Economy Ministry and the Agriculture Ministry,” Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said on Monday.

Guajardo also commented on Smith’s unusual name for a Mexican national.

“His (Anglo-sounding) name will surprise many, but he’s super Mexican,” he said.

The first round of trade talks between the United States, Mexico and Canada on NAFTA, an agreement that has helped quadruple trade between the three countries to over $1 trillion in 2015, will begin on Aug. 16 in Washington.

Reporting by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Sandra Maler