July 22, 2018 / 9:51 PM / 4 months ago

Mexican leftist appeals to 'anti-establishment' Trump, seeks NAFTA deal

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador sent U.S. President Donald Trump a letter urging a swift end to NAFTA negotiations and suggesting the leaders could work well together due to their shared anti-establishment style, Mexican officials said on Sunday.

Mexico's president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador gestures during a news conference in Mexico City, Mexico July 22, 2018. REUTERS/Ginnette Riquelme

The letter was delivered during a recent meeting in Mexico with senior U.S. officials, and details were disclosed once Trump had received it, said Lopez Obrador, a leftist who won Mexico’s July 1 presidential election in a landslide.

Marcelo Ebrard, the president-elect’s proposed foreign minister, read a copy of the letter at a news conference with Lopez Obrador that said the incoming administration’s aim was to “start a new chapter in the relationship between Mexico and the United States, based on mutual respect.”

Trump has had harsh words for Mexico on trade and immigration throughout his presidency.

Despite their contrasting political views, Lopez Obrador indicated he was optimistic about his working relationship with Trump.

“I am encouraged by the fact that we both know how to do what we say, and we have both faced adversity with success,” Lopez Obrador wrote. “We manage to put our voters and citizens at the center and displace the establishment.”

Lopez Obrador, who takes office on Dec. 1, also called for the countries to redouble their efforts to wrap up talks to modernize the 24-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada.

“Prolonging the uncertainty could stop investment in the medium and long-term, which clearly would challenge economic growth,” Lopez Obrador wrote in the letter.

Talks to overhaul NAFTA began nearly a year ago after Trump called for the agreement to be reworked to better serve U.S. interests.

The negotiations, which had effectively stalled as Canada and Mexico struggled to accommodate U.S. demands for major changes, will resume in Washington on Thursday.

Former World Trade Organization economist Jesus Seade will accompany the Mexican delegation as Lopez Obrador’s representative, Ebrard said.

Lopez Obrador singled out migration, development and security as prime areas of potential collaboration in his letter to Trump.

He reiterated to Trump his interest in working in depth on the problem of migration, through a development plan that would include Central American countries.

“My government is willing to present to our Congress ... the initiative and budgetary proposal to contribute economic resources and experiences in this joint effort,” he wrote.

Reporting by Sharay Angulo; Writing by Julia Love; Editing by Peter Cooney and Paul Tait

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