MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico said Thursday it is moving aggressively to diversify its agricultural imports and exports amid trade uncertainty with the United States, by far its largest commercial partner, under President Donald Trump.
The government is carrying out a string of trade visits to Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East, Agriculture Secretary Jose Calzada Rovirosa said at an afternoon news conference, even as it's also meeting with U.S. partners to consolidate deals.
The strategy is "to look for places to sell and look for countries to buy from to satisfy the demand of the Mexican people," Calzada said.
Calzada said the United States currently buys about 78 percent of Mexico's agricultural exports, or about $24.9 billion worth last year. In turn, Mexico imported some $17.9 billion in U.S. agricultural goods.
He said it is looking at other countries from which to buy key products for which Mexico currently relies on the United States.
For wheat that could be Canada, Russia and the European Union. Rice could come from Vietnam, Indonesia and Brazil.
For soy products, which Mexico currently spends about $1.5 billion to import from the United States, it could turn to Argentina and Brazil. And for pork — representing about $1.1 billion worth in imports from the U.S. — Denmark, Brazil and others.
Trump has insisted on a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada, which has greatly increased commerce between the countries. Mexico and the United States conducted about $583.6 billion in cross-border trade in 2015.
"In the face of this circumstance that has been presented with the United States ... we have increased and accelerated the visits to these countries with the goal of diversifying even more, and quickly, Mexican imports and also the supply that comes to our country from diverse nations," Calzada said.
U.S. agriculture industry reps have been in Mexico this week seeking to consolidate ties despite the uncertainty.
Calzada said Mexico told them its push to diversify has nothing to do with them or U.S. producers.
"It has to do with public policies proposed by this new (U.S.) government that have injected uncertainty into the agro-alimentary sector, mainly in their country," he added.
This story has been corrected to reflect that Calzada spoke Thursday.