In September, Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari named Herminio Blanco, 40, to be his country’s chief trade negotiator with the United States and Canada. Maclean’s National Business Correspondent Brenda Dalglish interviewed Blanco, an economist, in Mexico City. Excerpts:
Maclean’s: From Mexico’s standpoint, why is it advantageous to include Canada in the talks?
Blanco: We have very good relations with Canada. We are both small countries compared to others, and we are both pretty much for an open economy. Having a friend with the same interests is always very good.
Maclean’s: What did you learn from studying the talks on the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement?
Blanco: A lot. One of the things we learned from both the Americans and the Canadians is that out of those three years of negotiations, half of the time was lost. During the first year and a half, there seems to have
been some lack of definition of what was at the table and what was not. I think that period could have been shortened substantially. Maclean’s: Canadian negotiators say that they had an advantage in the FTA negotiations because they were better prepared than U.S. officials. How are you preparing for the talks? Blanco: Among other things, we have studied the experience of Spain [which joined the European Community in 1986]. That case is interesting for us because Spain was a small, less developed country joining a trade agreement with a larger community. So I think we are well prepared, and we will be better prepared when
formal negotiations really start. Maclean’s: Privately, some Canadian officials say that Mexico may have trouble going head-tohead with U.S. negotiators. Are you confident that you can hold your own in the talks?
Blanco: Oh, yes. When this government decides that something is a priority, resources are put into it. Maclean’s: Will immigration or labor issues be part of the negotiations?
Blanco: We see a free trade agreement as a way to create jobs - in Mexico. That being the objective, we want Mexicans to remain Mexicans. We don’t want them to go work in the United States.
Maclean’s: Are you convinced that Canada is serious about joining these negotiations
Blanco: Definitely. I have the best relations with [Canada’s deputy minister of trade] Don Campbell. I know that they believe in a North American free trade agreement as a way to make Canada even stronger so that it can face the European Community, Eastern Europe, Japan and everybody else. I’m fully convinced of it.
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.