With the backdrop of Brexit and skepticism about the European Union casting a long shadow across the Atlantic, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, U.S. President Barack Obama, and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto reaffirmed their countries commitment to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and position it as the alternative to "isolationism."
The North American leaders, oddly called the “Three Amigos” in reference to a slapstick comedy of the same name released around the time of the NAFTA's signing, dedicated their one-day meeting to discussions about trade, but were also probed by journalists about the Brexit vote and the prospects for relations under a Donald Trump presidency in the United States.
During the meeting Peña Nieto compared Trump with Hitler and Mussolini, Obama slammed “isolationists and xenophobes” and “nativism” while host Trudeau described the meeting as productive and friendly but a “little poignant.”
Their remarks came in the wake of the statements by Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, criticizing the tripartite conference while also labelling NAFTA a “disaster” and pledging to cancel it if elected U.S. president next November.
In order to prevent a possible disintegration of the treaty, which came into force in 1994, the three leaders agreed to liberalize the rules of origin, which enable customs officials to decide which goods qualify for preferential tariff treatment.
These preferential tariffs generally apply to the pharmaceutical industry, cosmetics, industrial machinery, natural gas, scientific equipment and rubber, and account for some US$166 billion in annual trilateral trade.
The leader also committed to continue support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, given the projections that the Brexit will negatively impact world trade.
Obama said the 12-nation agreement, which all three NAFTA partners signed in February, was the right way forward.
Trump has called the TPP free-trade negotiations and Obama’s “pivot to Asia” a “death-blow for U.S. manufacturing.” The proposed trade agreement is opposed by numerous civil society groups, and is still in the consultation stage in Canada.
Trudeau, Obama and Peña Nieto also presented a document titled "Economic prosperity – trade and competitiveness" in which they put forward a neoliberal trade agenda for the continent.