On Tuesday, prior to the final summit of the current US, Mexican, and Canadian leaders — nicknamed the “Three Amigos” — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto stepped out for a jog in Ottawa, and their attire immediately drew international attention.
For the 44-year-old Trudeau, despite his recent brushes with controversy, the short shorts may only reaffirm his reputation for youthful vigour.
For Peña Nieto, only five years old than Trudeau, the outfit sparked allusions to one of his more lighthearted controversies: “CalcetaGate” in August last year, when an odd footwear choice forced the Mexican leader to reassure his countrymen that he did, in fact, know how to put on his socks.
‘A hard story to tell’
On Wednesday, with Trudeau and Peña Nieto presumably well rested, the two leaders will gather with US President Barack Obama to address issues facing the region, in particular to stress the importance of trade at a time of mounting international doubts about the benefits of globalization.
The three countries belong to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has said he would renegotiate or even scrap if he wins power. Trump has also pledged to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which includes all three countries, if he wins office.
Trump has said that free trade has been disastrous for American workers, costing thousands of jobs and driving down wages.
Similar complaints were heard in Britain ahead of a shock referendum vote last week to leave the European Union and its own free-trade area.
“We’ve seen around the world many examples of protectionism, of concern, of stepping away from trade agreements,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Tuesday, according to Reuters, stressing the need for more rather than less cooperation.
“Better partnerships are a path to prosperity, and that’s a compelling example that we want to showcase at a time where unfortunately people are prone to turning inwards, which will be at the cost of economic growth and their own success,” Trudeau added.
Canada also announced that it will end the visa requirement for Mexican visitors by the end of this year.
Trudeau, Obama, and Pena Nieto will meet in Ottawa and are scheduled to hold a news conference at 3 p.m. (1900 GMT).
The leaders usually meet about once a year.
“We anticipate that leaders will spend a significant time talking about trade, for example, how to facilitate trade by automating our borders,” US National Security Council official Mark Feierstein told reporters on Tuesday, according to Reuters.
The trio will also discuss Britain’s so-called Brexit vote, which wiped more than $2 trillion off global equity markets and dealt a huge blow to the EU.
“The president will obviously want an opportunity to discuss … how we may be able to coordinate our efforts to insulate ourselves to the extent possible,” said Feierstein.
North American issues are likely to dominate the discussion, however, with White House spokesman Josh Earnest saying, “I don’t anticipate that [Brexit] will be the focus of their conversations.”
Earl Wayne, Obama’s former ambassador to Mexico, said that amid increasing criticism of NAFTA, leaders had to find a better way to explain that up to 14 million US jobs depend on trade with Canada and Mexico. Trade between the US and Mexico — the US’s third-largest trading partner that has been the subject of incendiary and often xenophobic rhetoric from Trump — rose to $531 billion last year.
“That’s a hard story to tell,” he told reporters. “There is a lot of scepticism, and it’s easier to sell the negative arguments.”
The three men will also pledge to produce 50% of their countries’ electricity from clean energy by 2025. Canada already draws 81% of its power from renewable resources, while Mexico gets 25% of its power from non-fossil-fuel sources and the US gets 32% of its power from renewable or nuclear sources.
Obama is due to address the Canadian Parliament at 5.25 p.m. (2125 GMT).
(Writing for Reuters by Roberta Rampton and David Ljunggren; Editing by James Dalgleish)
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