Why Canada is relaxing restrictions for Mexican visitors

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seeking to reverse steps taken by the previous Conservative administration that had been designed to curb asylum claims made by Mexican citizens.

Chris Wattie/Reuters
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (r.) meets with Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto in Trudeau's office on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, Tuesday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that Canada will lift visa requirements for Mexican visitors as of December 2016, removing a major irritant in relations between the two countries.

Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto made the announcement in Ottawa ahead of Wednesday's North American leaders' summit with U.S. President Barack Obama.

Pena Nieto also announced Mexico has agreed to open its markets to Canadian beef.

"We are here to renew the relationship," Pena Nieto said. "There were some rocks on the way and one was the visa."

Canada's previous Conservative government imposed the visa requirement in 2009, claiming it was needed to stop thousands of asylum claims being made by Mexican citizens. The requirement caught the Mexican government off guard, and it marred relations.

The Liberal Party promised during last year's election campaign that the visa requirement would be lifted, but the process has been fraught with delays.

"This move will make it easier for Mexicans friends to visit Canada while growing our local economy," Trudeau said. Trudeau also said the opening of Mexico to Canadian beef will help Canadian farmers.

Pena Nieto will attend a state dinner in his honor on Thursday night.

Trudeau also hosted a banquet for the Mexican president Monday in Toronto, where the prime minister said the two leaders would continue discussions touching on the flow of people and goods between their countries.

A White House adviser said Monday that Wednesday's summit will focus on a North American-wide commitment to cut methane emissions and release what the adviser said will be a comprehensive North American climate, clean energy and environment partnership.

A North American leaders' summit was scheduled to be held last year but was cancelled amid the Canada-U.S. dispute over the Keystone XL oil pipeline and the dispute over the visa requirement.

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