PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island -- Weeks ahead of slated North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiations, leaders from Mexico and Canada joined U.S. governors at the National Governors Association summer meeting here on Friday.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence held a private meeting during the event. Pence told attendees they are looking for a "win, win, win" as they work with Mexico to modernize the terms of NAFTA. The renegotiation process will ramp up next week, when the U.S. is expected to release its goals for the talks.
With Trump's threats to pull out of NAFTA if the renegotiation terms aren't beneficial enough to the U.S., the National Governors Association meeting presented a chance for Trudeau and Mexico City Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera Espinosa to gain support from state leaders.
Mexico also supports a modernization of the agreement now that there are new factors to consider, such as e-commerce, intellectual property and the environment, Mancera told U.S. News, speaking through a translator.
But while some aspects of the agreement are up for debate, Mancera says, "there are things we will not even discuss, such as tax changes."
"And we are not paying for a wall," he adds.
Mancera also touched on immigration during the interview and points out that, based on his conversations with governors during the conference, "[the governors] want Mexican workers. They need workers now for agriculture, especially, and all kinds of work."
In a question-and-answer session after Trudeau's speech before the governors -- the first time a foreign head of state has addressed the association -- Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, the incoming NGA chair, asked why the Canadian prime minister agreed to meet with the governors.
"We reach out, we think and we plan," Trudeau responded. "We thought this would be a great opportunity to step up our engagement with all levels [of government]."
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the outgoing NGA chair, encouraged other foreign government leaders to work directly with states, decrying the "conflicting messages coming out of Washington today."
"We want businesses and governments to deal directly with the governors to grow our economies," he said before asking Trudeau what advice he could offer governors seeking to bolster trade with Canada.
"First of all, reflect on what a lot of people take for granted: how easy the relationship is with Canada," Trudeau responded. "Make Canada the first easy step towards the global economy for many of your small businesses."
During his speech, Trudeau emphasized how Canada is "the U.S.'s biggest, best customer by far," pointing out that Canada, Mexico and the U.S. account for a quarter of the world's GDP under NAFTA. "We'd like a thinner border for trade, not a thicker one," he said.
For now, Mancera and Trudeau seem confident an agreement will be reached and that Trump will not pull out of NAFTA. Mancera says he thinks the agreement has too much value for the U.S. to exit, while Trudeau pointed out that the agreement has been updated "a dozen times over the last quarter century" and said there is "no need for a plan B."