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German Foreign Minister Gabriel talks up NAFTA and free, fair trade in Mexico

In the week that the US President began the process of overhauling the NAFTA trade accord, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has spoken in favor of free and fair trade. Germany is Mexico's main EU trading partner.

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German FM Gabriel backs NAFTA in Mexico visit

After a visit to the US this week, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel crossed the border into Mexico to speak in favor of free and fair trade.

"In our view the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is an agreement that doesn't just serve Canada and Mexico, but also the United States," Gabriel said at a news conference with his Mexican counterpart, Luis Videgaray, on Friday.

Mexiko Gabriel und Videgaray Caso in Mexiko-Stadt (picture alliance/dpa/B. von Jutrczenka)

Sigmar Gabriel with his Mexican counterpart Luis Videgaray Caso

NAFTA was set up in 1994 and encouraged multinationals to set up factories in Mexico, the US and Canada, taking advantage of the opportunity to sell products across the free trade area which links 450 million people.

"So we're trying, also via our visits to the United States, to make clear that a fair agreement isn't just in the interests of German companies, but also the United States of America," the minister commented.

Both Mexico and Germany run trade surpluses with the United States. In 2016 they both reached more than $60 billion (53 billion euros), according to US data.

Trump has threatened aggressive measures to eliminate the deficit.

In an interview with German newspaper Bild, then-President-elect Trump said in January he would aim to realign Germany's "out of balance" car trade with the US.

"If you go down Fifth Avenue, everyone has a Mercedes Benz in front of his house, isn't that the case?" Trump asked in the interview. "How many Chevrolets do you see in Germany? Not very many, maybe none at all … it's a one-way street." 

Gabriel was asked at the time what Trump could do to encourage German buyers to favor more American cars. He suggested "build better cars."

Infografik Autoindustrie Mexiko ENGLISCH

Concern for the future

Speaking on Friday, Gabriel told reporters in Mexico City that German firms were concerned about the future of the accord. He urged the US to recognize the benefits NAFTA had brought.

Germany is Mexico's principal trading partner in the European Union and more than 1,900 companies with German interests, mainly in the automotive and automotive suppliers industries, are registered with the Economics Ministry, according to the Federal Foreign Office. Mexico is a priority country for German cultural relations and education policy and all of Germany's major cultural organisations are active there.

Multi-issue Chancellor's visit

Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to visit Mexico within the coming weeks to discuss trade but also the protection of human rights, press freedom and the challenge of organized crime.

This week, Salvador Adame Pardo, founder and director of Canal 6 Media TV, was kidnapped in the state of Michoacan where he had been working for more than 20 years. His family said he had been receiving threats for some time.

This followed the killings of Mexican journalists Javier Valdez y Jonathan Rodríguez just a few days before.

jm/gsw (EFE, Reuters)

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