DETROIT (AP) — Mexico's economy secretary said Friday that he looks forward to starting negotiations with the U.S. to update the North American Free Trade Agreement, but his country does not want to see tariffs imposed on goods produced in his country.
"It makes no sense to introduce a trade agreement (with) border restrictions or tariffs," Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo told the Detroit Economic Club. "It would be a move to the past. We have to move to the future."
President Donald Trump has threatened to establish a border tax on vehicles imported from Mexico as a way to discourage automakers and others from moving jobs there. A GOP plan in Congress would slap a 20 percent tax on all imported goods.
Auto executives and economists say either plan would wreak havoc on the industry, which has gradually moved parts-supply and auto-assembly factories to Mexico since NAFTA took effect in 1994.
Guajardo said he hopes negotiations can begin in the middle of June, but that means the White House would have to notify Congress no later than March 15.
He was guarded when asked by the media after the speech about Trump's plan to build a wall between the countries to block illegal immigration.
"Mexico may not like the idea of having walls," he said. "But the U.S. has the sovereign right to build whatever they want on the U.S. side. We believe more in bridges and making the border work better and improving technologically to make it safe and efficient."
At the beginning of his remarks, Guajardo drew laughter as he talked about how he wasn't prepared for the surprises that came with Trump's election.
"Even my reading habits have changed," he said. "(On) my booklist, there is a book that has moved to the top: (Trump's) 'The Art of the Deal.' I had to really get acquainted with that book very quickly. . My next couple of years in office are going to be very interesting to say the least."