China is key to Mexico's plan to diversify its agricultural export markets beyond North America, the president of the National Agricultural Council (CNA), Bosco de la Vega, said on last Sunday.
De la Vega spoke with reporters in Mexico City, on the sidelines of the second round of negotiations to update the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Whether the three-way talks between Mexico, Canada and the United States will be successful remains to be seen, but U.S. insistence the 1994 trade deal be revised has made Mexico realize it cannot rely solely on its NAFTA partners.
"China plays a very important role. As far as the CNA is concerned, yes, we want to conquer China's market, while at the same time strengthening NAFTA," said De la Vega.
U.S. President Donald Trump's mission to modify NAFTA to better suit U.S. industry has sent Mexico scrambling to diversify its export markets.
The country is now negotiating trade deals with Europe, South America and the Asia-Pacific region, said De la Vega, who is serving as an adviser to the government's negotiating team.
NAFTA region agricultural producers are all in favor of free trade, retaining the dispute resolution rules contained in Chapter 19 of the agreement, and streamlining sanitary procedures, said CNA's chief.
Trump's anti-NAFTA rhetoric is so far the only problem, he added, alluding to a recent rally at which the U.S. president casually suggested scrapping the treaty and starting over again.
"We haven't seen any trouble spots. The only trouble spot is the one we already know all too well. We want President Donald to behave like a head of state and that is what we are expecting," said De la Vega.
More than 80 percent of Mexico's agricultural exports are shipped to the United States, bringing in a record 29 billion U.S. dollars in 2016, according to the CNA.
The current round began Friday and is to conclude on Tuesday and the next round will be hosted by Canada towards the end of the month.
Negotiations are expected to be completed by the end of the year.