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Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto arrive to take part in a news conference on Parliament Hill on Nov. 28, 2012. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto arrive to take part in a news conference on Parliament Hill on Nov. 28, 2012. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Harper’s trip not expected to change visa requirement for Mexican travellers Add to ...

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is not expected to drop a visa requirement for Mexican travellers during a North American leaders’ summit next week, a senior government official says.

Canada began requiring visas from visiting Mexicans in 2009 in an effort to stem the flow of illegitimate refugee claimants from that country. But the federal government has since tightened its refugee system, prompting renewed calls for an end to the visa requirement.

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Some observers had hoped Mr. Harper would use his upcoming meeting with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to remove the visa requirement. Mr. Harper is scheduled to arrive in Mexico City Monday afternoon and will meet with his Mexican counterpart on Tuesday. They will be joined by U.S. President Barack Obama the next day for a summit that is expected to address a range of trade, investment and security issues.

Sergio Alcocer, Mexico’s undersecretary for North America, told The Globe and Mail in an interview on Saturday that he isn’t expecting Canada to lift the visa requirement during Mr. Harper’s visit. But he added that the Mexican government would continue to work with Canada on the issue.

“Of course we will maintain our contact in order to remove this requirement eventually,” Mr. Alcocer said.

Canadian business leaders have urged the government to end the visa requirement, which they say is hurting the tourism sector. A recent report released by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives found that Mexican tourists spent $365-million in Canada in 2008, and less than $200-million in 2012, three years after the visa requirement was imposed.

As a result of the restrictions, “Canadian airlines have had to eliminate or reduce planned routes and it is virtually impossible for a Mexican to arrange to travel to Canada on short notice, whether for business purposes or to take advantage of Canada’s competitive airfares to Asia,” the report said.

The Mexican government has hinted that it does not plan to embarrass Canada over the issue.

Mr. Alcocer said he expects next week’s discussions to cover a wide range of topics, including increased co-operation on education initiatives, trade and shared transportation issues.

The bilateral meeting with Mr. Harper will also be an opportunity to reflect on 70 years of diplomatic relations between Canada and Mexico, Mr. Alcocer said, adding that he expects Mr. Pena Nieto to highlight the importance of the anniversary and to look forward to a “much broader and much deeper relationship” between the two countries.

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