Canada and Mexico


Why Canada should work to strengthen its ties to Mexico

Colin Robertson, The Globe and Mail, October 14, 2016

The Trudeau Government should prioritize its strategic partnership with Mexico. The June visit of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to Quebec City, Toronto and Ottawa set a plan for closer collaboration. Both nations need to deliver on specific initiatives, especially those that emphasize our people-to-people ties.

The signature of the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) established a framework through which we have become each other’s third-largest trading partner. It is built largely through the investment of Canadian banking and resource industries in Mexico and through continental supply chains in manufacturing industries. Together, we make planes, trains and automobiles.

With a 44 million strong middle class, Mexico’s market will only increase. By 2050, Mexico is expected to rank fifth in global economic weight.

There is no shortage of collaborative instruments. The Canada-Mexico Partnership, with its private-public membership, has been in place since 2004. Its agenda covers the waterfront: energy; agri-business; labour mobility; human capital; trade, investment and innovation; environment; mining; forestry; and recently we have commenced annual security discussions.

With the election of the Trudeau government, we have developed a common North American approach to climate.

And, last December, after collaborating at the World Trade Organization, we persuaded Congress to roll back the protectionist US country-of-origin labelling requirement that threatened both of our country’s meat exports into the USA.

Canadians have begun once more their annual migration south. More than two million Canadians spend over 22 million nights in Mexico, making it our second most popular destination after the USA.

But despite the declared ambition and collaborative framework, the relationship seems less than the sum of its parts. The arbitrary imposition of a visa in July, 2009 offended Mexicans. It damaged the vital people-to-people ties that underwrite lasting relationships.

Mexicans stopped coming to Canada, complaining that the information required for the visa was excessive, intrusive and the processing time too long. Tourism and student study from Mexico sank. Mexican investors looked elsewhere. Today, we get more visitors from South Korea and Australia than Mexico, even though those flights are at least three times as long.

The visa will be replaced in December with the much-delayed Canadian Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) system.

In anticipation of this change, the Trudeau government should work with the provinces to aggressively market student study in Canada.

We have more than 400 interinstitutional agreements and Canada’s International Education Strategy identifies Mexico as a priority market. What is missing is Mexican students; there are only 5,000 among the 200,000 foreign students in Canada.

To give the initiative momentum, why not have Governor-General David Johnston lead a group of Canadian university presidents to Mexico to promote joint study opportunities and co-operation in innovation? Mr. Johnston, a former university president, represented Canada at the inauguration of Mr. Pena Nieto and recently played host to him in Quebec City.

High-level visits are catalysts for action. Justin Trudeau should also put Mexico on his travel agenda for 2017. Why not make it a trade and investment mission with the premiers?

The Trans Pacific Partnership agreement, that effectively updates NAFTA, will depend on whether U.S. President Barack Obama can secure its congressional approval during the lame-duck session. To prepare, we should be discussing with Mexico what provisions we can jointly salvage and make bilateral, to our mutual benefit.

Mexican ministers are making regular visits to the United States to make the case for continental trade and the jobs they create. Canadian ministers should join them.

As the Trudeau government contemplates a renewal of Canadian involvement in peace operations, it should look first to the challenges in our own hemisphere.

Citing its “global responsibilities,” Mr. Pena Nieto has committed Mexico to peace operations. Helping Mexico with training of peace troops would be a useful contribution as we increase our own participation.

Last week’s failed referendum on a peace pact in Colombia will oblige renewed efforts to end the more than half century conflict that has displaced 6.7 million Colombian citizens. Canada and Mexico should pursue the talks begun earlier this year on a possible joint peacekeeping role.

Can we also help Mexico with its southern frontier problems as a result of the continuing turmoil in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador?

Both governments need to pick shared initiatives on which we can achieve tangible results. Success will develop more trust and create a better basis for a shared approach when dealing with the new U.S. administration.

Over the years, the Canada-Mexico story has resembled a spasmodic series of tango-like bursts of intensity followed by long siestas. This time, let’s keep the dance going and put the emphasis on our people-to-people ties.

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Mexico Canada: Visa and Beef

Beef industry celebrates ‘symbolic’ re-opening of Mexican market

Normalization of trade in Canada’s 3rd-largest beef export market a ‘high priority’

By Janyce McGregor, CBC News Posted: Jun 28, 2016 3:28 PM ETLast Updated: Jun 28, 2016 3:28 PM ET

The North American beef industry soon will be fully integrated once again, following Tuesday's announcement that Mexico will lift its remaining restrictions on Canadian beef imports Oct. 1.

The North American beef industry soon will be fully integrated once again, following Tuesday’s announcement that Mexico will lift its remaining restrictions on Canadian beef imports Oct. 1. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Mexico will fully re-open its market to Canadian beef imports on Oct. 1, offering Canada’s farmers valuable new customers for their mature cattle this fall.

The resumption of full trade in beef was part of a suite of announcements as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held bilateral talks with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on Parliament Hill Tuesday.

Canada announced it will lift its visa rules for Mexican travellers on Dec.1, removing another longstanding irritant between the two countries.

Mexico was among dozens of countries that suspended beef trade with Canada after a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was detected in 2003.

While imports of some products later resumed, live cattle and meat from animals over 30 months of age (referred to as OTM products) were still restricted, cutting off trade in ground beef and other specialty meats.

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association says that normalized trade with Mexico marks the removal of one of Canada’s few remaining BSE-related restrictions: only China, Taiwan and Indonesia continue to block certain Canadian beef products.

Fall change timely

CCA president Dan Darling said the reopening gives Canadian farmers the confidence they need to expand their herds in the future.

“When our production increases to previous levels, I believe that Mexico could again import more than $250 million per year, like it used to,” he said in a statement. Between one-quarter and one-fifth of that used to be OTM beef.

The Oct. 1 effective date is timely.

“The months of October and November are traditionally the time of year when Canadian beef farmers send most of their mature breeding cows to market,” Darling said.

Even with the limited access, Canadian beef exports to Mexico have averaged over $130 million annually for the last five years, according to the Canadian Meat Council.

Mexico is seen as a growing market, with expanding middle-class appetites for beef that exceed domestic production.

“The full normalization of trade in beef products with Mexico has been a high priority,” said Canadian Meat Council President Joe Reda.

Signal to other new markets

Mexico is considered a high-value market for certain beef products that don’t sell as well elsewhere.

In a release, the council estimated incremental sales worth $10 million annually from Tuesday’s announcement. (Incremental sales value results when a new export market is prepared to pay more than current customers for the same products.)

But beef producers are also celebrating the signal this market restoration sends to other potential customers, as the North American industry becomes fully integrated once more.

“The concession by Mexico on beef is really symbolic,” former diplomat Colin Robertson told CBC News. 

“We’re very anxious to get into other markets — the United Kingdom as well as Asia — and having a clean bill of health from the Mexicans was something that was holding us back a little bit when we were trying to sell into places like Korea, China, Japan and Europe.”

Carlo Dade from the Canada West Foundation called the announcement great news, especially for Western Canada.

But he noted “a huge disconnect” in the fact that many Albertans supported keeping the visa restrictions against Mexico despite its industry benefiting from the beef deal.

“What happened with beef and the visas is an object lesson that will be completely lost on the people of Alberta,” he said.

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Trilateral Summit

CBC The National on Harper Visit to Mexico

Power Play: Frosty meeting in Mexico?

Carlo Dade of the Canada West Foundation, and Colin Robertson, a former diplomat, discuss the relationships of the free trade partners. Staff
Published Monday, February 17, 2014 10:01PM EST

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has arrived in Mexico to meet with his North American counterparts with a plan to boost Mexican travel to Canada, despite the controversial visa requirements.

The Canadian Press reports that Trade Minister Ed Fast has been authorized to sign an expanded airline access agreement with Mexico.

The agreement would give Mexican airlines greater access to more Canadians cities, while Canadian travellers would benefit from more direct flights to Mexico, according to CP.

The expanded airlines agreement is seen as a pathway to eventually lifting the visa requirements Ottawa imposed on Mexican travellers in 2009 to deter bogus asylum seekers.

Senior officials have confirmed to CTV News that Harper is not expected to lift the visa requirements any time soon. But there are rumblings that a fast-track process for frequent, pre-approved Mexican travellers – similar to the Nexus program — could be put in place.

The visa issue has been a source of tension between Canada and Mexico and is expected to cast a shadow over the North American leaders’ summit. There are also tensions between U.S. and Canada over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project.

Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson said Monday that signalling an eventual lifting of the visa requirement is important because of the significance of Canada’s trade relationship with Mexico.

“I would be surprised if we don’t come out of (the summit) with at least something that gives the Mexicans what they are asking for, which is a pathway to lifting the visa,” he told CTV’s Power Play.

But Carlo Dade of the Canada West Foundation says the leaders of the three countries – often referred to as “the Three Amigos” – are now “perhaps worse than rivals.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever been more depressed about the state of relations,” he told Power Play. “The Mexicans are mad at us, and in Canada, we’re mad at the Americans and the Americans seem to have had it up to here with both of us.”

He said he doesn’t foresee anything positive coming out of the summit, and believes most of the time will be spent on “damage control.”

Harper will meet on Tuesday with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, and then participate in the North American leaders’ summit with U.S. President Barack Obama.


Prime Minister Stephen Harper reviews the honor guard after a wreath-laying ceremony at the Ninos Heroes monument, or Children Heroes, in Mexico City, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014. (AP / Eduardo Verdugo)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrives in Mexico City, Mexico on Monday, Feb. 17, 2014. (Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Piden a Canadá eliminar Visa para paisanos

17 / febrero / 2014Solicitan diputados y senadores eliminar el requerimiento de visa para los connacionales que viajen al país de la hoja de maple

VisaLa Visa es requerida desde junio de 2009.


Diputados y senadores mexicanos pidieron nuevamente a la delegación de parlamentarios canadienses que se elimine el requerimiento de Visa para los connacionales que viajen al país de la hoja de maple.

Al tomar la palabra, el presidente de la Mesa Directiva en San Lázaro, Ricardo Anaya recordó que la solicitud no es una concesión o una excepción sino que responde al restablecimiento de la buena y cordial relación que existe entre ambas naciones.

“La visita a México el próximo mes de febrero del primer ministro canadiense Stephen Harper, nos parece, sería un marco extraordinario para el anuncio del regreso a nuestra normalidad histórica, del regreso de lo que ha sido la práctica común, la no necesidad de una visa para que los mexicanos entremos a Canadá”, exigió el panista en el evento inaugural de la XIX reunión interparlamentaria México-Canadá y aseguró que quitar el visado aportaría beneficios por igual a ambos pues desde que se instauró la medida, en junio de 2009, la visita de paisanos se ha reducido en 50% pues pasó de una afluencia de 300 mil viajeros al año a 150 mil.

Sin embargo, el diputado también reconoció ante su homólogo canadiense, Andrew Sheer, que el gobierno ese país optó por esa medida debido al abuso de solicitudes de asilo político mal sustentado y al ‘boom’ de oficinas de intermediarios que hacían negocios con el trámite de los documentos.

Al respecto la prensa canadiense de corte liberal y algunos órganos empresariales, también ha presionado por la eliminación de la Visa pues considera que “si Canadá quitó el requisito a la República Checa para concretar su acuerdo de libre comercio con la Unión Europea, debe hacer lo mismo con México”, opinó Colin Robertson, vicepresidente del Instituto Canadiense de Defensa y Asuntos Exteriores en una entrevista.

En tanto, el Consejo Canadiense de Directores Ejecutivos, principal organismo empresarial de esta nación, advierte que México y Canadá “no podrán reimpulsar sus relaciones diplomáticas y de inversión hasta que la visa sea modificada o eliminada”.

Sin embargo, a días de que el primer Ministro Stephen Harper arribe para la cumbre de Norteamérica, una fuente gubernamental adelantó que el Gobierno no prevé cambios próximamente “No tenemos la intención de quitar la vis. Hemos implementado numerosas medidas para facilitar la entrada a visitantes legítimos”, dijo un funcionario anónimo a Canadian Press.

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Mexico Canada relationship

Colin Robertson speaks to CTV News on Canada-Mexico relationship

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Visit of Mexican President-Elect Pena Nieto

Canada-Mexico: revitalizing the neighbourhood

iPolitics Insight

By Colin Robertson | Nov 28, 2012

Today’s visit by Mexican president-elect Enrique Peña Nieto brings to mind the old proverb ‘better a good neighbour, than a distant friend’.

After a brief embrace, around the negotiation of the NAFTA in 1992-3, the Mexico-Canada relationship for much of the past two decades has been that of ‘distant friends’.

Designed to propel Mexico economically forward and enhance the clever continental integration of the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA worked. Each partner prospered, although public appreciation of NAFTA stopped north of the 49th parallel.

Today, Mexico is our fifth largest export destination and our third source country for imports – including items like your refrigerator and flat-screen television, a reflection of Mexican manufacturing prowess.

Canadian manufacturers like Magna, Martinrea, and RIM are firmly established. Their Mexican operations are vital to their integrated global supply chains and nowhere is this better illustrated than at Bombardier Aerospace’s plant in Queretaro.

Walk down the streets of Mexico City and you are likely to see the red and white signage of Scotiabank, now Mexico’s seventh largest bank with over seven hundred branches. In Mexican shops you will find ‘made in Canada’ products like fish and chips.

With over $11 billion dollars in investment –  making us Mexico’s fourth largest investor – Canadian enterprise, now numbering more than 2500 companies, has been well rewarded. Our mining companies do especially well, albeit not without some controversy over labor and environmental practices.

Looking forward, President-elect Pena Nieto has signaled that he wants to open Mexico to investment and to draw on Canadian know-how in difficult-to-extract energy development.

Next month in Auckland, we both join as full partners of the Trans Pacific Partnership, a process that also promises to reform and reinforce our continental trade with the USA. One outcome of today’s visit should be the development of a workplan on shared objectives.

There is already useful work underway, notably on energy and efficient border passage, between the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, Business Round Table and the Consejo Mexicano de Hombres de Negocios. We need an umbrella Canada- Mexico Business Council to connect these dots and recommend to governments how we can grow this relationship.

Institutions matter and a Business Council would reinforce the work of the North American Forum that for a decade has kept alight the trilateral flame like a candle in the wind. Canadian leadership of this useful organization has now passed from Peter Lougheed to Tom D’Aquino.

D’Aquino has set for us an ambitious but attainable set of priorities: a common external tariff; a continental energy market; technological cooperation; regulatory complementarity; and a refurbishment of our infrastructure particularly as it relates to roads and rail, grids and pipelines and our gateways.

Add a security dialogue to the list with the goal of eventually integrating Mexico into NORAD.  For additional inspiration look to the recent Forging a New Strategic Partnership between Canada and Mexico by Canadian Chamber of Commerce President, Perrin Beatty, and former Mexican Deputy Foreign Minister Andres Rozental

Last year, 1.6 million Canadians flocked south for the  sunshine, beaches, pyramids, rainforests and jungles. It’s our second favourite tourist destination. Their culture is rich: lively music and dance and authors like Carlos Fuentes and Nobel laureate Octavio Paz. Then there is the tequila – with over 901 brands offering a lifetime for taste-testing for Canadians enjoying Mexican hospitality.

Sadly, the welcome mat is not reciprocated. The imposition of a visa requirement in the summer of 2009 drastically curbed Mexican visitors. Last year only 130,000 Mexicans visited Canada. Bad enough that it deters tourism and potential students, it also hampers our efforts to attract investment.

Mexican investment in Canada is minimal in comparison with its investment in Latin America. We need to try harder.  Having since fixed our refugee application system we should now lift the visa requirement.

We should also broaden our migrant worker program with Mexico. It has successfully supported our farming interests. Lets extend it to other service industries, including the oil sands where our home-grown labour is insufficient.

In recent speeches Foreign Minister John Baird has spoken about the convergence of Canadian values and interests in the context of a ‘dignity agenda’.

Dignity starts with law and order.

The campaign against crime and terror subsumed the administration of President Felipe Calderon. Drug cartels are a clear and present danger not just for Mexico but the wider neighborhood – Guatemala and Honduras. Their tentacles also stretch north into the US and Canada.

President-elect Pena Nieto has pledged to finish the task begun by President Calderon. Let’s help him. Put our dignity agenda into practice starting with training for Mexico’s police and judiciary.

Grace notes are important to being a good neighbour.

Having Governor General David Johnston represent Canada at the Presidential Inauguration next week in Mexico City sets the right tone. The next step should be a series of visits by Canadian cabinet ministers to meet their new Mexican counterparts to discuss how we can mutually collaborate on our broad trade, economic and security agenda.

Mexico matters to Canada. Let’s use today’s visit of President-elect Peña Nieto to revitalize a relationship that deserves more attention.

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Put Mexico at top of Canada’s Aid List

Published Wednesday, May. 18, 2011 Globe and Mail

Lurid headlines about mass graves and headless corpses – the premise for Carlos Fuentes’s most recent novel Destiny and Desire – are a daily reminder of Mexico’s existential war with the cartels that smuggle people and drugs into the United States. Mexico has other problems, including basic governmental institutions like policing and justice, that would benefit from Canadian advice and assistance.

Since NAFTA, Mexico has suffered from a lack of strategic consideration by Canada. Our policy initiatives often lack follow-through, especially in maintaining regular contact at the ministerial level, or reflect the kind of heavy-handedness for which we criticize the United States. The imposition of a visa on Mexican visitors in 2009 was badly handled. Still in place, it is a reminder of our ineffectual refugee determination system and its reform should be a priority for the re-elected Harper government.

Mexico is Canada’s third-largest trading partner and our fourth-largest export market, and its economic prospects are positive. The World Bank’s 2010 annual report, Doing Business, declared Mexico the easiest place in Latin America to run a company. Goldman Sachs predicts that in 40 years, Mexico will be the world’s fifth-largest economy, bigger than Russia, Japan or Germany. More than 2,500 Canadian firms are active. Walk down any of Mexico City’s main streets and you will spot a Bank of Nova Scotia, now the sixth-largest bank in Mexico. Shop in the supermarket and you are likely to find Canadian products.

The supply-chain dynamics that underpin the Canada-U.S. relationship now embrace Mexico. Magna has over 30 auto-parts plants while RIM produces BlackBerrys for the global marketplace. Aerospace facilities in Queretaro also build components for Bombardier aircraft, including those shipped north to Montreal for final assembly. Canadian mining firms are major players and bolster our place as Mexico’s fourth-largest foreign investor.

Our provinces, especially the premiers, have put effort into the relationship but we must do more. “We need,” argues Bob Pastor in his new book, The North American Idea: A Vision of a Continental Future, “to start over with a big North American idea, one based on the simple premise that all three countries benefit when one succeeds, and we are all hurt when one fails.”

Parallel with the new Canada-U.S. border and regulatory initiative, we need to develop a coherent strategy towards Mexico that looks at our integrated trade and investment. Identify opportunities for common cause, as we demonstrated in pandemic planning over H1N1. We both have shared interests in curtailing U.S. gun imports, in securing better access for our trucking, in joint action against U.S. agricultural subsidies.

Most of all, Mexico needs help with institution-building in areas like training an independent judiciary, reliable policing and managing pluralism. If we can provide 1,000 trainers in Afghanistan, then surely we can do more for Mexico, where our interests are vastly more important.

Self-interest alone should motivate us. If things go badly for Mexico in its war with the cartels and the situation worsens on the U.S.-Mexico border, it will be very difficult for any U.S. administration to differentiate and grant special dispensation on the northern border. Immigration is changing the political demography of the U.S., with nearly 50 million Americans claiming Latino roots.

Mexico should be our main target for aid and development. With almost half of its 110 million citizens under 30, Mexico needs jobs and opportunities, schools and hospitals, roads and infrastructure to build a new social contract. Putting Mexico at the top of our development agenda would also signal that we are serious about the Americas. We will reap geopolitical rewards in our relationship with the United States. It will also fuel the trade and commerce that guarantees our own prosperity. If ever there was a country where our economic interests and commitment to democratic development coalesce, it is Mexico.

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