Former foreign affairs minister laments weak relationship at federal level
There are strong ties between Mexico and Canada at the personal, business and provincial levels, but that’s as far as they go, says a former Canadian foreign affairs minister.
Bill Graham, who served in the Cabinet of former Prime Minister Jean Chretien, says there isn’t the rapport there should be at the federal level, and not just between Mexico and Canada, but with the United States as well.
Graham says focus on trade agreements with other regions, particularly Asia, is partly to blame.
He said in an interview with the Mexican news agency Notimex that North America ought to be a priority for the governments of the three countries, but that of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has not given relations with Mexico the importance they deserve.
He cited the visa requirement as one policy that has cooled bilateral relations, but argued that it has served its purpose, to slow Mexican applications for refugee status, and is no longer required.
“There is no reason why a Mexican who has a U.S. visa shouldn’t automatically have a Canadian visa.”
The U.S. has an immigration issue with Mexico, but Canada does not, said Graham. The Mexicans who travel to Canada are businesspeople, academics, teachers and students, he argued.
However, he expressed optimism for the requirement being suspended before too long because he understands that Canadian officials are now working on it.
While bilateral relations at senior government levels are cool, that’s not the case in the business community, where Canadian firms such as Bombardier have a strong presence in Mexico.
And the provinces of Alberta, Ontario and Quebec have their own presence with offices here. Meanwhile, some million and a half Canadians visit Mexico every year, “a high number considering we only have 30 million people,” said Graham.
Graham has been active in promoting relations between Mexico and Canada for several years, and has served as co-chairman of the Canada-Mexico Initiative, a consortium of think tanks that was formed for that purpose.