Liz Truss will push for Mexico’s support for the UK to join an international trade pact as she visits the country on Thursday.
The foreign secretary will travel to Mexico from the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where she has represented the UK with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
It comes after Johnson conceded an agreement with the US was not about to be struck, following meetings with President Joe Biden.
But Truss will focus on the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), and discuss plans to develop a new and updated deal between the UK and Mexico.
The CPTPP is a free trade agreement between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
The UK applied to join in February, and in June the CPTPP announced that the accession process would begin.
‘An open and dynamic Indo-Pacific’
Truss said: “Closer ties with Mexico are a key part of our plan to strengthen economic, security and diplomatic links with like-minded allies who share our belief in free enterprise and free trade.
“A trade deal with Mexico, for example, will pave the way for us to join the CPTPP, one of the world’s biggest free trade areas.
“Our relationship with Mexico has huge potential. It could open vast new opportunities for businesses, support jobs across Britain, and help ensure we play a key role in an open and dynamic Indo-Pacific.”
Truss will also formally open the new British Embassy building in Mexico City, after the previous one was damaged in the 2017 earthquake.
She will also attend a dinner with celebrity British-Mexican chef Fernando Stovell, who has held three Michelin stars and cooked for the Queen.
Earlier this week it emerged that the UK harbours hopes of joining a regional trade agreement between the US, Mexico and Canada as hopes of a post-Brexit trade deal with Washington fade.
The USMCA pact was signed by Donald Trump, then US president, last year – after a lengthy renegotiation of the existing NAFTA deal between the three neighbours.
The deal tightened environmental and labour standards and included strict rules of origin requirements for the automative industry.
‘Two to tango’
British officials told reporters on Tuesday, shortly before Boris Johnson met Biden at the White House, that the UK was considering applying to join USMCA.
“There are a variety of different ways to do this,” one said. “The question is whether the US administration is ready. The ball is in the US’s court. It takes two to tango.”
Johnson had earlier told reporters in Manhattan there were “plenty of reason to be optimistic” about getting the free trade agreement with the US.
But the Vote Leave figurehead downplayed the prospects of brokering a trade deal by the next election, raising the possibility that he could leave Downing Street without achieving a key ambition for the post-Brexit era.
His concession came after suggesting trade negotiations are not a priority for Biden, who he accepted has “a lot of fish to fry”.
Asked if he would get the deal by 2024, the prime minister told Sky News: “We will keep going with free trade deals around the world including in the United States.
“I have plenty of reason to be optimistic about that. But the Americans do negotiate very hard.”