tucson.com

Via tucson.com

As talks about revisiting the North American Free Trade Agreement approach, Mexico is aggressively promoting a message of wanting to preserve and enhance the 23-year-old treaty.

But rolling back any provisions that Mexico views as favorable to all three countries is not negotiable, Kenneth Smith Ramos, head of the Trade and NAFTA office at the Embassy of Mexico, said during a recent visit to Southern Arizona.

“We want to be sure that, first, we do no harm by re-establishing tariffs,” he said during an interview with the Star.

Logistical discussions should focus around enhancing the use of rail to move trade between the three countries, Smith Ramos said. And, a controversial provision that allows truckers from Canada, the U.S. and Mexico to travel into each other’s countries must remain an option, he added.

Despite the fact that few companies have applied for such access, Smith Ramos believes the option should remain in the renegotiated agreement.

“It’s important to have cross-border trucking,” he said. “We think it is essential.”

To modernize NAFTA, language should be added that includes intellectual property rights and digital trade — something that has grown substantially since the agreement went into effect in 1994.

“Our countries should combat piracy,” Smith Ramos said. “We can’t see each other as rivals.”

Also, Mexico opening its oil, gas and power sectors should be reflected in any update.

“We’re in a new generation,” Smith Ramos said.

During his visit to Arizona, Smith Ramos met with business leaders and emphasized the impact NAFTA has had specifically on Arizona.

Mexico is Arizona’s largest export market. In 2016, trade between Arizona and Mexico surpassed $15.7 billion.

Exports from Arizona have increased 332 percent since NAFTA was implemented.

In his new book, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake touched on NAFTA, saying if the U.S. were to “rip up” the treaty it would have a “seismic” effect on the U.S.

Flake warned that the U.S. won’t create the jobs and industries of tomorrow and that China is prepared to step in and do trade deals with Mexico if the United States won’t.

Revisiting NAFTA talks are expected to begin in Washington on Aug. 16, to be kicked off with dinner, then seven rounds of negotiations before the end of the year in all three countries.

The quick pace is an attempt to have an improved NAFTA prior to the Mexican presidential election in 2018.

Contact reporter Gabriela Rico at grico@tucson.com.