Respecting a campaign pledge, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week announced that Canada will lift its controversial visa requirement for Mexican visitors in December.
In return, President Enrique Peña Nieto will reopen the growing Mexican market for Canadian beef, implemented after an outbreak of mad-cow disease more than a decade ago.
The announcements capped a fruitful first-ever state visit by a Mexican president to Canada, prior to Wednesday’s There Amigos summit with U.S. President Barack Obama.
The visit realigned a partnership that had nosedived since Stephen Harper’s move in 2009 to force Mexican visitors to Canada to obtain visas following a sharp rise in the number of false asylum claims from Mexico. The decision was criticized widely in both nations, and led to a drop off in tourism to Canada and a slow down in trade.
In a joint statement, both leaders promised to “grow (Canada and Mexico’s) cultural connections, expand the growing trade and investment relationship, and find solutions to the shared challenges of climate change.”
“The agreements we reached today will spark the exchange of more travelers, goods and ideas between our countries than ever before,” Trudeau said.
Since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into effect, Mexico and Canada have witnessed dramatically increased trade and investment. They are each other’s third-largest trading partners, and bilateral trade between the two countries, valued at CA$37.8 billion in 2015, continues to grow annually.
Canada increasingly sees Mexico as a crucial partner in safeguarding its interests that are threatened by the economic power of its southern neighbor.
To the disappointment to some NGOs, Trudeau did not raise the issue of human rights in Mexico. Amnesty International wanted him to confront Peña Nieto on the allegations of killings, disappearances and torture linked to authorities in the wake of the presumed murder of 43 students from a teacher training college in the state of Guerrero in 2014.