April 22, 2019
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Lopez Obrador: Not in Mexico's interests to reopen talks on USMCA

Mexico City, Apr 11 (efe-epa).- Mexico's president said Thursday that it is not in his country's interests to reopen negotiations on a recently signed free-trade agreement with the United States and Canada that is now pending ratification.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was referring to the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which is meant to supersede the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement.

"It suits us to maintain this treaty and that no pretext be given to reopen the negotiation," he said amid uncertainty over whether the US Congress will ratify the so-called "new NAFTA" that was signed on Nov. 30.

The leftist president said at his daily press conference at the National Palace that Mexican lawmakers have "autonomy" but expressed confidence that the Senate will ratify the USMCA and urged the US Congress (where the opposition Democratic Party now controls the lower house) to do the same.

"Regardless of the alignment of forces in the US Congress, we want to do our part so that the US government does its part and this treaty negotiation process is concluded," Lopez Obrador, popularly known as AMLO, said.

US President Donald Trump slammed NAFTA as a disaster for American workers during his surprise run to the White House and then insisted on renegotiating that trade deal after taking office in early 2017.

The treaty was signed on the final day in office of Lopez Obrador's predecessor, Enrique Peña Nieto, while AMLO also expressed support for the deal as president-elect.

"We posed no obstacle when the treaty was being renegotiated," Lopez Obrador, who took office on Dec. 1, 2018, said, adding that "maintaining good relations with the US government" is a key priority of his administration.

He noted that his government's only contribution to the renegotiation process was to add "two paragraphs that reaffirm Mexico's right to manage its natural resources with authority and sovereignty."

Lopez Obrador, meanwhile, also said he favored maximizing the level of transparency in government decision-making and walked back the tone of a request made to the Reforma newspaper on Wednesday, when he called on that Mexico City daily to reveal the source that leaked a letter he wrote to the Spanish king urging him to apologize for the conquest 500 years ago.

"If Reforma doesn't want to reveal (the source for the letter it published), that's fine. It's not a problem. I'm just saying there should be transparency all around," the president said.

He added that it "would be interesting" to know if the Spanish government leaked the letter to the newspaper.

"There would be a different connotation if a foreign government leaked a letter to a Mexican newspaper."

Separately, Lopez Obrador said a large-scale diversion of funds had been detected at the customs office in the western port city of Manzanillo and vowed to submit a proposal for tackling the problem nationwide.

"All of these officials are going to be removed. The Manzanillo customs office will be completely cleaned out and we're going to clean up corruption at customs houses," AMLO said.

"Knock, knock, knock, knock. You've got to knock on their doors. No more corruption and impunity."

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