PARLIAMENT HILL—Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with Mexico’s President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto on Wednesday.
The two leaders said they hoped for closer ties between their two countries, leading to mutual economic benefit.
Harper said new immigration rules make it possible to ease visa restrictions on Mexicans coming to Canada, an issue that has upset many Mexicans.
Ongoing drug violence in Mexico has marred the country’s image and is partly responsible for a jump in refugee cases from Mexico.
Canada’s 2009 decision to require Mexican visitors get a visa to come to Canada in order to stem refugee applications was met with sharp criticism.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said at the time that refugee claims had tripled from Mexico since 2005, making it the top country for immigration claims, with 89 percent of claims eventually rejected.
“We would ultimately like to see visa-free travel,” Harper told reporters at a press conference with Nieto.
The soon-to-be president also attracted critics.
Romina Hernandez of the group Mexicans for Regularization came with others to protest the visit and Canada’s economic policies in Mexico.
“The last elections we had were a fraud. They were one of the most corrupt elections we had,” she said.
Hernandez was also highly critical of Canadian mining companies in Mexico, claiming they did not benefit average Mexicans.
Canada benefits from cheap Mexican labour, both in Mexico and in Canada, through the foreign temporary workers program, but won’t let Mexicans immigrate to Canada, she said.
“We have to migrate to Canada [to work] and then after a couple years, when they don’t need us for cheap labour, we are forced to leave.”
Mexico is looking for Canadian investment and know-how to build its economy and access hard-to-get oil.
That may be helped in part by $300 million from Export Development Canada provided to Mexico’s national electricity company.
The money will help open doors for Canadian businesses in Mexico, said EDC in a release.
Last year, EDC helped over 700 Canadian companies in industries like light manufacturing and transportation undertake nearly $2.5 billion in business in Mexico.
According to Statistics Canada, Mexico is Canada’s third largest source of imports and fifth largest destination for exports.
The Mexican economy has been doing well, noted Nieto in a recent Globe and Mail op-ed. He cited analysts at Goldman Sachs and Nomura have predicted Mexico will be one of the 10 largest economies by 2020.
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