MEXICO CITY (AFP) – Britain’s trade minister Liam Fox met with Mexican counterparts Thursday to lay the foundations for a post-Brexit trade deal, part of a global diplomatic offensive to smooth its departure from the European Union.
Fox announced Britain had launched an informal working group with Latin America’s second-largest economy seeking to “ensure all the preferential arrangements that the UK currently enjoys with Mexico remain in place.”
Britain is walking a delicate line as Brexit talks inch forward in Brussels.
It will be ousted from all EU trade deals when it leaves the bloc — scheduled for March 2019.
But EU rules prohibit it from negotiating new deals until then.
In the meantime, top British cabinet ministers are engaged in a flurry of international diplomacy, seeking to set up new trade agreements with key partners without actually sealing any deals.
Fox’s Mexico trip comes on the heels of a visit to the United States, where President Donald Trump this week hailed the prospect of a “very big” trade deal with Britain.
Foreign Minister Boris Johnson was meanwhile on a tour of the Asia-Pacific region, visiting Australia and New Zealand after a trip last week to Japan.
Fox said Britain would first seek to replicate its existing trade deal with Mexico, then expand it over time.
“We stress the need to redouble our efforts to increase bilateral trade between Mexico and the UK, especially given the wealth of opportunities that exist in both countries,” he told a meeting of business leaders, after talks with Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo.
Mexico is also keen to explore new trade relationships as talks loom on overhauling the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the United States and Canada, a major driver of its economy for the past 20 years.
Trump vows to tear up NAFTA — which he says has shipped US jobs south of the border — if the US does not get a better deal at the talks, which open on August 16.
Mexico’s economy, which is second only to Brazil’s in Latin America, relies heavily on its preferential access to the United States, the customer for 80 percent of its exports.