MONTREAL - A former Mexican diplomat says Canadian and U.S. efforts to strike free trade deals with the European Union must eventually be harmonized into a North American agreement involving Mexico.
Arturo Sarukhan, a former ambassador to the United States, told an economic forum in Montreal on Wednesday that European economies and the three NAFTA countries need to synchronize their rules.
Failure to do so will cause disruptions to North American supply chains and trade with Europe, Sarukhan said.
Sarukhan acknowledged that moving to this next step won't happen quickly because of U.S. concerns that it would slow down its own impending negotiations.
Canada has been negotiating an agreement with the European Union for several years while the U.S. is set to launch its effort this summer, putting pressure on the federal government to get a deal with the EU done soon.
David Cary Jacobson, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, recognized the concerns raised by the former Mexican diplomat but said negotiating a North American deal is "putting the cart before the horse."
Maxime Bernier, Canada's minister for small business, said extending a European trade agreement to include Mexico would follow the history of how NAFTA flowed from a deal between Canada and the United States.
He said it's always advantageous for a country to foster freedom of trade to build prosperity and jobs.
Bernier said he's optimistic that Canada will soon conclude a trade deal with the EU but wouldn't speculate when that will be achieved.