When Prime Minister Stephen Harper made his first ever visit to the Middle East from January 18th-24th, he was warmly greeted in the region, ensuring many Canadians that the visit would help to strengthen Canada’s ongoing ties with Middle Eastern nations, especially Israel. The month of February marks an additional diplomatic visit for PM Harper to continental neighbouring Mexico, a partner of Canada’s in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Howver, the visit may not be as warm as that of the Middle East, considering the dissatisfaction and resentment that the Mexican government has felt towards Canada.
In addition to a burdensome travel visa imposed by the Harper government on Mexican travellers in 2009, Canadian-Mexican relations have also deteriorated due to a lack of progress between the two countries’ relationship in NAFTA. In a recent Huffington Post article, Mexican Ambassador Francisco Suarez was quoted claiming that Canada had a “nostalgic view that still looks in Anglo terms, either to the British Empire, Britain, or to the special relationship with the US,” adding that Canada viewed Mexico as “non-existent.”
It is against this dissatisfied background that PM Harper will find himself later this month during the talks, which US President Barack Obama will join two days after Harper’s arrival for what is called the “Three Amigos” summit. However, during the bilateral portion of the summit where Harper sits down with Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto, there is much to negotiate.
In the article by the Huffington Post, Suarez was quoted recommending that the two leaders “achieve and refine a long-term strategic vision that is both deeper and broader.” Such a vision could therefore culminate in enhanced relations between the two North American countries, and help to underline Harper and Pena’s second meeting in Canada.
Over the past twenty years, Mexico has undergone immense transformation, leading it to be classified as a “newly industrialized country” or NIC. The growth of the Mexican middle class to 50 million, a figure larger than the entire population of Canada, has resulted in an increase in the country’s economic power. Additionally, the numerous multinational corporations that call Mexico home as well as its forward looking vision has lead to its title as the 13th largest world economy, with an output comparable to Canada’s. NAFTA alone has tremendously aided Mexico on its path to greater economic development, with many experts dubbing it the biggest winner in the trilateral deal due to a more than tenfold increase of exports in the past two decades.
With all this in mind, the bilateral portion of the Three Amigos summit is more crucial than ever. As mentioned in the Huffington Post, ambassador Suarez believes that Canada has taken Mexico for granted, which has resulted in “Canada ignoring Mexico’s transformation over the past twenty years.” Harper’s meeting with Pena Nieto can be a stepping stone to the reversal of deteriorating relations, and rather a fresh look at what holds in the future for Canada and Mexico. Also, considering Canada’s heavy dependence on US exports, greater diversification of export partners by working with Mexico could benefit the Canadian economy. Additionally, though Mexico may be classified as the “winner” of NAFTA, there are still issues to be dealt with such as the continuing inequality that exists between all three countries concerning the North versus South gap and skilled versus unskilled labour discrimination, issues that can be solved with greater and equal partnership between all three members of NAFTA.
Quotes Obtained from: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/02/02/canada-mexico_n_4713470.html