Canada and Mexico have agreed to settle a pair of protracted bilateral disputes — Canada would scrap rules obliging Mexican visitors to obtain visas while Mexico would allow expanded imports of Canadian beef starting in October.
The Oct. 1 effective date is particularly important in terms of timing as it provides producers with an expanded export opportunity for over-30-month (OTM) beef, said Dan Darling, president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.
“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 in a press release. “Mexico has traditionally been an excellent market for Canadian beef. In addition to expanded access for OTM beef, we look forward to potential future opportunities that today’s announcement of fully restored access for Canada for all beef and beef products, regardless of the age of the cattle, will bring.”
Mexico closed its border to Canadian beef in May 2003 when Canada discovered its first domestic case of BSE. Mexico re-opened to beef from cattle under-30-months (UTM) of age later that year, but remained closed to beef from OTM cattle and some UTM offal.
The agreement marks the removal of one of the few remaining BSE trade restrictions in the world and that will help instil confidence in Canadian beef producers to grow their herds, Darling said.
“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.
The restriction that requires visitors from Mexico to have a visa dates back to 2009, when the former Conservative government became concerned about what it said were a rising number of bogus asylum claims by Mexican visitors.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Enrique Pena Nieto both stressed their desire to deepen ties between the two nations, which along with the United States are members of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Both countries send the vast majority of their exports to their powerful neighbour.
But the future of NAFTA could be uncertain after the U.S. election, which looks set to pit Republican Donald Trump against Democrat Hillary Clinton. Trump says he wants to tear up or renegotiate the deal while Clinton has taken a populist tack on free trade during her campaign. Trudeau said the importance of ties between Canada and Mexico could not be overstated.
“It is my hope that through meetings like this one, we will be able to further strengthen that relationship in the years ahead,” Trudeau said.
Canadian officials say privately that the two nations have not done enough to develop commercial and political ties or explain the benefits of free trade to their citizens. Pena Nieto, making the first state visit by a Mexican President to Canada for 15 years, said the two nations had created a working group to study how to deepen relations.
Trudeau said he and Pena Nieto had talked briefly about the U.S. election and agreed on the need to work with the new president.
“We will engage … in a positive, thoughtful collaborative way that understands the importance of the North American trilateral relationship,” he said.