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Canada-Mexico travel accord to benefit operators

Feb. 10, 2014, Ottawa - Canada and Mexico are putting new air travel measures in place that should boost tourism and business opportunities between the two countries, Mexico’s ambassador says.


February 10, 2014
By The Globe and Mail

Francisco Suarez said the change is among the initiatives that could
come up when Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Enrique
Pena Nieto meet in Mexico next week. The two leaders will be joined by
U.S. President Barack Obama on February 19 for a trilateral summit that
is expected to focus on economic co-operation.

In a recent interview with The Globe and Mail, Mr. Suarez said easing
restrictions on air travel should increase the number of direct flights
between Mexican and Canadian cities, benefiting both tourists and
business travellers. Canada and Mexico initially reached an expanded
agreement on the issue in 2011 but have not yet ratified the deal.

 

The
ambassador said he is particularly hopeful that direct flights will
open up between Mexico City and Calgary because he expects the Canadian
city to become an important hub for Mexican energy companies seeking
outside expertise. Mexico, which has significant shale-gas deposits and a
strong potential for deep-water oil production, recently opened its
energy sector to foreign investment after decades of state control.

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But
Mr. Suarez added that as long as a visa requirement remains in place
for Mexican travellers, any increase in flight traffic will be
disproportionately in Mexico’s favour. Mexicans have needed visas to
travel to Canada since 2009, a restriction that has been criticized as a
roadblock to advancing relations between the two countries.

 

“If
we’re going to have a new aviation agreement that liberalizes airplane
movement between Canada and Mexico, it’s theoretically so we increase
the movement of people both ways,” Mr. Suarez said. “What’s going to
happen is we’re going to have it one way [to Mexico]. So that benefits
us.”

 

The Mexican government has offered a number of ideas aimed at
easing the current visa restrictions, including requests that Canada
expedite visa approvals for Mexicans who have already been approved to
spend time in the United States. Mexico has also suggested simplifying
visa application forms and making renewals easier.

 

However, Mr.
Suarez said Mexico would not allow questions about visa requirements to
detract from next week’s talks and would instead keep the focus on the
“big picture” of trade and investment in North America. Mr. Suarez spoke
enthusiastically about new opportunities for Canadian businesses in
Mexico, adding that his government is eager to work with Canada on
regional trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

 

“I
would like to underline that Canada and Prime Minister Harper’s visit
is a foreign-policy priority for Mexico. Canada is a foreign-policy
priority for Mexico,” Mr. Suarez said. “I think we’re very clear that we
want the visit to be a success.”

 

He said Mexico would welcome
Canadian expertise in oil and gas exploitation and on transportation
infrastructure. Mr. Pena Nieto is expected to travel to Canada in June
and will likely stop in Calgary, Mr. Suarez said. “I am somewhat joking,
but he will have a de facto stampede of [people from] energy services
industries …they will be very interested in speaking with the
President,” he said.

 

Mr. Suarez said Mexico and Canada are also
working on an agreement to provide financing for small and medium
businesses. And he said efforts are under way to strengthen links
between Canada, Mexico and the United States on higher education,
including more opportunities for student exchanges.

 

A spokeswoman
for Citizenship Minister Chris Alexander said the visa requirement was
imposed on Mexico to protect the integrity of Canada’s immigration and
refugee system, and declined to comment on any possible changes to the
current rules. “Canada continues to work with the Mexicans on this issue
and is monitoring the situation,” Alexis Pavlich wrote in an e-mail.
“We want to reassure genuine visitors that they continue to be welcomed
and are encouraged to visit and experience Canada.”