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How Trump split Mexico and Canada in NAFTA talks

How Trump split Mexico and Canada in NAFTA talks

MEXICO CITY, (Reuters) – A day after winning the Mexican presidential election, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took a congratulatory call from U.S. President Donald Trump. But Trump had something more important on his mind: Would Mexico’s new president consider a bilateral trade deal?

Lopez Obrador responded he would be “open to the possibility” in the absence of a trilateral agreement that also included Canada, said Hector Vasconcelos, a foreign policy advisor to Lopez Obrador’s campaign who listened to the call on July 2.

Lopez Obrador’s answer marked a pivotal moment after a contentious year of negotiations between the United States, Canada and Mexico to rework the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the framework for more than a trillion dollars in annual trade between the three.

Until then, Mexico and Canada had worked together to counter the economic and political clout of the United States as Trump demanded more favorable terms for the world’s largest economy and repeatedly called NAFTA a “disaster” for U.S. workers. But the election victory for Lopez Obrador, a leftist opposition candidate, gave Trump an opportunity to divide Mexico and Canada and cut a deal the way he wanted – one-on-one.

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“I think I’m doing better with (Lopez Obrador) than the capitalist,” Trump told his supporters at a West Virginia rally last month, referring to Mexico’s outgoing president, Enrique Pena Nieto.

The shift in Mexico’s position came as the rival incoming and outgoing administrations realized that a deal with the United States before the presidential changeover would suit them both, […]