Mexico sees trade deals in TPP leftovers, flags China opportunity

Trump set out plans on Monday that include withdrawing from TPP, which he calls a "potential disaster."

Mexico's Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo speaks during a news conference on the Brexit at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Henry Romero
English 22/11/2016 17:25 Mexico City Gabriel Stargardter | Reuters Actualizada 17:25
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Mexico said on Tuesday the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could form the basis for bilateral trade deals between signatories, and saw a bigger role for China on world trade after U.S. President-elect Donald Trump vowed to withdraw from the accord.

On Monday, Trump set out plans for his first day in office, including withdrawing from TPP. He called it a "potential disaster" for the United States, which he argues has lost thousands of manufacturing jobs due to poor trade policy.

Mexico's Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo, who has just returned from meetings with policymakers at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Lima, said if Washington stepped back from free trade, it would open the door to China.

"If one power exits a space, you can bet another will step in," he told reporters at an event in Mexico City.

Chinese President Xi Jinping also attended the APEC meeting, where he told the world "here we are" on free trade and pledged to keep opening its economy to other countries, Guajardo said.

Mexico has said it wants to press ahead with TPP regardless of whether the United States ratifies the 12 nation accord signed in February, though Guajardo said the existing agreement could form the basis for bilateral deals.

The minister also said Mexico could weigh the merits of the China-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a rival pact that excludes the United States.

"Mexico has to have a means of integrating itself with the Asia-Pacific (region)," Guajardo said.

Trump has also threatened to ditch the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Mexico, United States and Canada, raising pressure on Mexico to reduce dependency on the United States, where it sends 80 percent of its goods exports.

Latin America's second biggest economy runs a sizeable trade deficit with Asia's main trading nations, especially China.

However, the government could face resistance from Mexican manufacturers to opening up to China, as the two countries compete directly in many sectors to export to the United States.

(Editing by Dave Graham and Diane Craft)

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