A warm welcome for Peña Nieto in Canada
Trudeau jogs this morning in Ottawa with Peña Nieto. CBC NEWS
Canada’s prime minister told a press conference yesterday that Mexicans will no longer be required to obtain a visa to visit Canada effective December 1.
The announcement, not unexpected, came after a private meeting this morning between Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who is in Ottawa for a state visit and tomorrow’s North American Leaders — or Three Amigos — Summit.
Trudeau said Canada will work with Mexican immigration officials over the next few months to iron out the details. Canadian officials have said off the record that visa restrictions could be reimposed should the number of Mexican refugee applications soar as they did in 2009 before the visa requirement was implemented.
It was reported this morning that in exchange for lifting the visa requirement Mexico has agreed to fully reopen its market to Canadian beef, a restriction that was imposed after the discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, in Canadian cattle in 2003.
Mexico initially banned all Canadian cattle and beef imports but today the ban only applies to cattle or beef from cattle that is over 30 months old. Despite that, Mexico is Canada’s third most important market for beef exports due to a growing appetite for beef among middle-class consumers and its geographical proximity, reported CBC News yesterday.
Peña Nieto said this morning the cattle import restrictions would be lifted in October.
Trudeau said the visa decision will permit Mexican citizens to travel to Canada and grow the relationship between the two countries. Peña Nieto saw the decision as an effort to remove obstacles and strengthen the relationship.
The president said 14 agreeements are being signed during his visit. They include broadening student exchanges, further sharing of information regarding security, promoting the development of indigenous peoples and boosting tourism.
Peña Nieto arrived in Canada Sunday night, landing in Quebec City. He was given a welcome ceremony yesterday by Governor-General David Johnston, as well as a welcome by demonstrators protesting the events in Iguala in 2014, in which 43 college students disappeared, and the more recent violence in Oaxaca.
“Oaxaca, Quebec is with you,” read one placard.
Later, Peña Nieto traveled to Toronto for an official dinner with Trudeau and about 300 guests. Trudeau toasted Peña Nieto by observing it had been six years since the last visit by a Mexican president to Canada. “. . . six years is too long to wait for visits between friends.
“Of course, Canada and Mexico are more than just friends. We are partners, and it’s what we share as partners and friends that I’d like to celebrate tonight. We share a continent, but we also share connections between people.”
Trudeau said the two countries want a relationship that allows for “greater trade, stronger growth and more job creation.”
He recalled that Mexico had sent firefighters to Fort McMurray, Alberta, to help fight that province’s huge wildfire in June. “That kind of help is exactly what good friends do. We appreciate it and we will not forget it.”
In response, Peña Nieto said, in Spanish, “You will find in Mexico a partner and you will find a friend in me.”
More protesters, angry that Canada welcomed Mexico’s president after the clashes in Oaxaca, greeted the president as he arrived at the dinner.
Today, the two leaders began the day with a morning run in Ottawa. Tonight the governor-general will host a state dinner in Peña Nieto’s honor.
Tomorrow they will meet with U.S. President Barack Obama for the Three Amigos Summit.
The improved relations between Mexico and Canada will be warmly welcomed by businesses and business organizations, particularly in Canada, where they have been calling for several years for a renewal of the relationship.
It soured when the visa requirement was introduced and remained chilly until Trudeau won election last October. He was expected to eliminate the visa after promising to do so during the election campaign.
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