MEXICO CITY Mexico is looking forward to talks on the North American Free Trade Agreement now that U.S. President Donald Trump's pick for trade representative has been approved, the country's foreign minister said on Friday.
Luis Videgaray said he and Mexico's Finance Minister Jose Antonio Meade, Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo and Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong would visit Washington, D.C., next week as the two countries seek to end a dispute over sugar exports and prepare for talks over renegotiating NAFTA.
Trump has repeatedly criticized the North American Free Trade Agreement as being bad for U.S. workers and has threatened to withdraw the United States from the deal with Mexico and Canada if it cannot be changed.
Months of uncertainty about the fate of NAFTA, which has underpinned regional trade since 1994, has affected growth forecasts in Mexico, shaken the peso and curbed investments.
The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved Robert Lighthizer, Trump's nominee for U.S. Trade Representative, allowing the president to trigger the process for opening NAFTA for revision.
"There's finally a trade representative," Videgaray told reporters. "For us it's good news that the process is closer to starting. Mexico is ready to enter into a serious negotiation."
Mexico's Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said he thought talks would probably start toward the end of August.
Guajardo said all three countries must recognize NAFTA's positive contributions before starting.
"We can't start negotiating if there isn't a recognition that this treaty has benefited and enriched the three nations. If not, the conditions aren't there to negotiate," Guajardo said at an event in the northern city of Monterrey.
Videgaray said Mexico wanted grow its ties with China, and said meetings with Chinese officials had been planned for this year.
On Thursday, Guajardo sent a stark message to the United States, saying an upcoming visit by Mexican officials to China showed Latin America's second largest economy had other places to export to if Trump decided to tear up NAFTA.
(Reporting by Ana Isabel Martinez in Mexico City and Dave Graham in Monterrey, Mexico)