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No NAFTA Deal Will Be Reached In 2017, Castaneda Speculates


The future of the North American Free Trade Agreement has become a major irritant in U.S.-Mexico relations, something President Trump acknowledged before the second round of NAFTA negotiations kicked off in Mexico last week.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Mexico is not happy. But as I told them, you made a lot of money for a lot of years, and everybody left you alone. We got to change this deal.

MARTIN: Mexico's president says he won't accept any deal that hurts his country's dignity. For more on the Mexican perspective on all this, we turn to former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda in Mexico City.

Thank you so much for being with us this morning.

JORGE CASTANEDA: Good morning. Thank you, Rachel.

MARTIN: How would you characterize the U.S.-Mexico relationship right now?

CASTANEDA: Well, I think one word would sum it up, rather - lousy in the sense that, in addition to NAFTA, there are a series of other irritants - President Trump's suspension or postponement of Deferred Action for Children (ph) - Childhood Arrivals, or DACA; his insistence on building a wall between the United States and Mexico; rounding up people and increasing mainly arrests but also deportations of Mexican undocumented immigrants in the United States. All of these things have created a very negative feeling towards President Trump, not towards the United States but towards Donald Trump, in Mexico and have placed the Mexican government and the Mexican business community in a very difficult situation, particularly regarding NAFTA, as you said.

MARTIN: So how does - how do Mexican negotiators then move through that? I mean, how can they compartmentalize their thoughts and feelings about President Trump from the U.S. government that they need to sit down and make a new deal with?

CASTANEDA: Well, they are trying to negotiate on issues such as NAFTA, and they've had now two rounds. A third round will be in Ottawa in, I think, about a week because the Canadians, of course, are also involved. And the Mexican negotiators are trying to negotiate a new NAFTA without really bringing in the other issues, but the other issues are there. The Mexican foreign minister who's in Washington - was in Washington yesterday talking, among other people, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and with Senator Schumer about DACA because DACA's a very important question for DREAMers and very important for Mexico. Eighty percent of the DREAMers are Mexican.

MARTIN: So does that mean...

CASTANEDA: And suspending...

MARTIN: Sorry to interrupt you - does that mean that negotiators for NAFTA on the Mexican side would bring up an issue like DACA in those negotiations to use it as some kind of point of leverage?

CASTANEDA: Not necessarily in the trade negotiations, but bringing it up, yes, as something that has to be addressed. This was a very anti-Mexican decision taken by President Trump. And it's very difficult to negotiate issues like the automobile industry or anti-dumping provisions in the existing NAFTA or rules of origin or a series of things on trade and make believe that the president of the United States did not just decide they've got somewhere near 600,000 Mexican young people who are facing the possibility of deportation as of March 6. So the two issues have to be taken into account.

But also, the fact is, the wall has to be taken into account. If he builds the wall, this generates an enormous amount of animosity in Mexico towards the U.S. government because building walls between countries is not very nice, not that there isn't part of a wall already. The wall began to be built back by President Clinton in 1994. But today, the wall...

MARTIN: Let me ask you in....

CASTANEDA: ...DACA, NAFTA, deportations - it's everything.

MARTIN: In seconds remaining, what do you think the odds are of a new NAFTA by the year-end?

CASTANEDA: I think they're low. I think there may be a deal by the middle of next year. But by the end of this year, I think the odds are very low.

MARTIN: Jorge Castaneda is the former foreign minister of Mexico. Thank you so much for your time this morning.

CASTANEDA: Thank you, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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