Secretary of State Rex Tillerson began a weeklong tour of the Americas with a stop in Mexico City on Thursday and today, as Mexican diplomats are pushing to preserve NAFTA.
Two other contentious issues between the two countries — President Trump’s promises to build a new border wall and to deport large numbers of unauthorized immigrants — are looming, but the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement could have the most imminent impact.
The U.S. is by far Mexico’s most important trade partner, accounting for about 80 percent of its exports, while Mexico is the No. 3 trading partner for the U.S., and the No. 1 partner for many individual states, including Arizona.
NAFTA is the only item made publicly available in advance on the agenda for Tillerson’s meeting today with Mexico’s Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Videgaray and Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, who will also attend. Tillerson and his counterparts are not directly involved in the negotiations.
But commerce between the three countries can have an unexpected impact in other areas, said Maureen Meyer, director for Mexico and migrant rights at the Washington Office on Latin America, a think tank. For example, if NAFTA were canceled, Mexico might be less interested in cooperating in issues of national security or immigration.
"From the diplomatic point of view, it's also important to discuss these areas because the economic trade and investment relations between these three countries are also connected with other parts of their agenda," Meyer said.
Tillerson is also scheduled to meet with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and to later travel to Argentina, Colombia, Peru and Jamaica.