February 9, 2018, by Lizbeth Diaz and Frank Jack Daniel
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – The collapse of NAFTA would not be a disaster for Mexico, the top foreign policy advisor to leftist presidential election frontrunner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said, adding that Mexico should depend less on the United States and not interfere with regional neighbors.
Veteran diplomat Hector Vasconcelos echoed Lopez Obrador’s position that Mexico should suspend talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement until a new government is elected in July, and said Mexico had other trade options.
“We have alternatives, if for any reason we don’t manage a good renegotiation of the free trade deal, it wouldn’t be the end of the world,” Vasconcelos told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.
“There are other possibilities for trade and investment in other parts of the world,” such as Europe and Asia, said Vasconcelos, who was formerly Mexico’s ambassador in Denmark, Norway and Iceland.
The United States takes about 80 percent of Mexico’s exports, despite numerous international trade deals.
The current government has stepped up efforts to diversify to other markets in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s threats to scrap the 1990s-era NAFTA, which also includes Canada.
Lopez Obrador, a former Mexico City mayor, has a double-digit lead over his nearest rival in opinion polls on the July 1 election.
Vasconcelos emphasized that Mexico would keep close ties to the United States if Lopez Obrador were to win, saying his government would seek an alliance for economic growth instead of a focus on police and military relations.
He said a Lopez Obrador government would seek a meeting with Trump “as soon as possible.”
The diplomat pushed back at political rivals who say that Lopez Obrador’s policies would take Mexico down a route similar to crisis-hit Venezuela, but said he did not support U.S. sanctions on Venezuela’s socialist government.
“Our emphasis will be on defending the legitimate interests of Mexico, and not on trying to intervene here and there before we put our own house in order,” Vasconcelos said.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, on a five-nation tour of Latin America and the Caribbean this week, said the United States was moving closer to a decision on imposing sanctions on Venezuelan oil.
Canada, Mexico, and the United States agreed to form a working group to study how to mitigate any fallout from the potential sanctions.
Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz and Frank Jack Daniel; editing by Grant McCool