MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's government and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday vowed to step up efforts to defend bilateral trade worth more than $500 billion a year, attempting to quell concerns about the impact of a Donald Trump presidency.
U.S. President-elect Trump sparked fears of economic crisis in Mexico by threatening to ditch the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which comprises the United States, Mexico and Canada, if he cannot renegotiate it in his country's favor.
Mounting a robust defense of NAFTA, Carlos Sada, Mexico's ambassador to Washington, said since the agreement came into effect in 1994, Mexico has not maintained the requisite degree of engagement with relevant players in the United States.
In an address to executives at an event held by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Mexico City, Sada said Mexico needs to exploit its network of U.S. consulates to make the case for NAFTA.
"We need to open up the agenda, both in the sense of having a relationship with the private sector and the political actors," Sada said, underlining the importance of making members of U.S. Congress understand the "depth" of bilateral ties.
The U.S. chamber of Commerce has estimated some 6 million jobs in the United States depend on trade with Mexico.
During the first nine months of 2016, Mexico accounted for 14.5 percent of the United States' total trade, just behind Canada and China, U.S. official data show.
Trump has threatened to impose hefty tariffs on Mexico-made goods, and attacked U.S. companies for investing there.
Jodi Hanson Bond, Vice President of the Americas Department at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in the coming weeks, the chamber would engage the Trump administration and other key stakeholders to bring home the importance of Mexico-U.S. ties.
"Restoring tariffs or withdrawing from NAFTA, the foundation for our economic relationship? It would only bring pain to thousands," she said. "We need to go on the offense, we need to start making the case in a smart, integrated way with our allies."
Mexico's government says it is ready to talk to Trump about NAFTA, and has held out the possibility of compromise by suggesting that new chapters be added to the deal.
Advocates of cross-border business ties say the two economies are now so heavily integrated it is impossible to take steps against one without damaging the other.
(Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Marguerita Choy)