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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Former Mexican President says Trump unlikely to walk away from Nafta

Vicente Fox also says US probably won't build wall on Mexican border

Mr Fox, who was president of Mexico from 2000 to 2006, has been a vocal and outspoken critic of Mr Trump. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Mr Fox, who was president of Mexico from 2000 to 2006, has been a vocal and outspoken critic of Mr Trump. Chris Whiteoak / The National

It's unlikely that U.S. President Donald Trump's administration will walk away from the North America Free Trade Agreement (Nafta) as has been threatened by the American leader since his election campaign and the country is unlikely to build a wall on the border with its southern neighbour to stem the flow of illegal immigrants, Mexico's former president said.

"I am convinced that at the very end, this guy Trump speaks too much and doesn't deliver as much and that will happen with the wall and Nafta," Vicente Fox said in an interview with The National newspaper on Tuesday on the sidelines of a Latin American forum in Dubai.

"I don't think he will be able to get from his own congress support for that wall. Of course, Mexico will never pay for that wall and at the same time he will never be successful trying to break Nafta or run away from Nafta. The US corporations need Nafta badly, US farmers need Nafta badly, because the whole of the United States is happy with what we have built in this partnership."

In January the Trump administration proposed $18 billion over 10 years to build a wall on the Mexican border, an amount Democrats rejected, according to Bloomberg. Some estimates have put the cost of building the wall as high as $25bn.

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Mr Fox, who was president of Mexico from 2000 to 2006, has been a vocal and outspoken critic of Mr Trump, often using colorful language to criticize him, especially after the US leader made demeaning remarks about Mexicans and Nafta during his election campaign.

Mr Trump has called the free trade agreement with Canada and Mexico the worst deal the US has ever made. The US president has also attacked other free trade agreements the US has struck, saying they deprive US workers of jobs. Relations between the US and Mexico have also cooled because of Mr Trump's proposal to build the wall between the two countries. He angered Mexicans with his speeches where he branded them as rapists, drug dealers and criminals.

"It will be difficult, if not impossible to break it because he's the only crazy mind that thinks breaking Nafta will benefit the United States," Mr Fox said. "He's absolutely wrong. He doesn't understand how economies work. He doesn't understand what we have built together for years, for decades what the United States and Canada. We will continue, we will prevail."

The United States is Mexico's biggest trading partner with roughly 80 per cent, or $318 billion, of Mexico's exports going to the US. The Nafta agreement went into effect in 1994. Trade between the three countries exceeds $1 trillion each year. In August, the Trump administration began talks to amend the agreement to make it more favourable to the US and those negotiations are expected to last until March.

Mr Fox said that Mexico was keen to open new markets, such as those in the Middle East, for its goods which are increasingly not just agricultural but also include electronics and cars.

"It's very important for us to be here to open new markets, reduce our dependence on the United States," he said.