NAFTA's 20 Anniversary Summit Kicks Off In Toluca, Mexico

on February 18 2014 12:46 PM
  • Mexico VW factory 2010 2
    Employees work on the assembly line on the Jetta Bicentennial at the Volkswagen (VW) automobile manufacturing factory in Puebla, Mexico. Reuters
  • Peña Nieto and Harper
    Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto (L) and Canadian PM Stephen Harper (R), during Peña Nieto's visit to Ottawa in November 2012. Reuters
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MEXICO CITY -- Horacio Avenue, between the Mexico City upscale neighborhoods of Condesa and Polanco, was decked in Canadian flags hanging from trees on both sidewalks as early as last Saturday. The Cinépolis movie theater in the upscale mall Plaza Carso, owned by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, the world's richest man, announced a cycle of Canadian movies. Mexican tweeps overran Twitter with the hashtag #CanadaInMexico.

It was all in preparation of the arrival of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who landed in Mexico City on Tuesday to a busy agenda of private meetings and a whirlwind visit of Mexico’s capital. Harper and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto will have some time to prepare before heading to the industrial city of Toluca on Wednesday for the summit marking the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta).

The meeting, jokingly nicknamed the “Three Amigos” reunion, will feature talks on further commercial integration between the three countries. Sergio Alcocer, deputy secretary for North America at the Mexican Foreign Ministry, said in a press conference that the focus of the talks will be the creation of jobs, and to ease travel between the three countries.

“It is in the interest of North America that regular travelers, for business or leisure, are allowed to move freely between the countries,” Alcocer said.

Several trusted-traveler programs are already in place in the U.S., like Nexus, Global Entry and Viajero Confiable (Trusted Traveler), though the North American nations have yet to recognize all of them.

New bilateral and trilateral agreements will be discussed as well, mostly in matters of technology, education and security. The talks are expected to build on the discussions held last year between Obama and Peña Nieto, when the U.S. president visited Mexico in May.

“As both presidents follow up on their talks from last year, they will see that both administrations have worked towards a better integration,” said Eduardo Medina Mora, Mexico's ambassador in Washington, D.C.

Security in Toluca, an industrial city to the west of the capital, has been reinforced in anticipation of the summit on Wednesday. The center had already been closed down to traffic on Tuesday morning. The city has made extra efforts to welcome the three, with signs reading “Welcome” in English, French and Spanish hanging all over town.

Obama will arrive Wednesday morning in Mexico City and have a private meeting with Peña Nieto, before traveling to Toluca with his two North American counterparts.

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