While free trade with the United States was the main impetus behind Canada and Mexico’s participation in NAFTA, both sides have benefited from their own bilateral trade relations as part of the deal. Now all three parties are back at the negotiation table, revisiting the agreement that has transformed their economies in so many ways. In an email interview, Dan Ciuriak, a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation and former deputy chief economist at the Canadian government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, explains what NAFTA has meant to the Canada-Mexico trade relationship and whether their free trade arrangement will survive a possible end to the agreement.
WPR: For all of U.S. President Donald Trump’s criticisms of NAFTA, how has the agreement looked from the standpoint of Canada-Mexico trade relations?
Dan Ciuriak: For both Canada and Mexico, the mutual bilateral relationship was of secondary importance in the original NAFTA negotiations compared to the relationship of each country with the United States. Mexico pursued the trade agreement with the U.S. as the central pillar of its reorientation of economic policy. Canada entered the NAFTA negotiations with primarily defensive aims, to avoid being “hub-and-spoked” by the U.S. trade agenda.