MEXICO CITY China and Mexico pledged on Monday to deepen ties at a meeting between their top diplomats following last month's U.S. presidential election victory of Donald Trump, who has tested Washington's relationship with both countries.
Before arriving in Mexico on Sunday, Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi met with members of Trump's team in New York, including his pick for national security adviser, retired Army Lieutenant General Michael Flynn.
Mexico has been exploring ways to lessen its economic dependence on the United States out of fear that access to its No. 1 trade partner will be restricted by policies under Trump, who promises to protect American jobs from going outside the country.
Yang's meeting with Mexican Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu included discussions of enhancing trade and investment ties, Mexico's Foreign Ministry said in a statement, as well as improving flight connections between the two countries.
"They agreed to deepen mutual trust and develop the bilateral dialogue about subjects of mutual interest via the Mexico-China Strategic Dialogue," the ministry said, without giving more details.
Yang said in the meeting that China's comprehensive partnership with Mexico was "flourishing" day by day, adding that China wishes to deepen cooperation on trade, investment, resources, infrastructure and financial services, according to a statement on the Chinese foreign ministry website.
After his meeting with Ruiz Massieu, Yang had a "courtesy visit" with President Enrique Pena Nieto.
The Chinese government has bristled at Trump's moves in recent days, protesting his decision to accept a telephone call from Taiwan's president and voicing concern after a weekend interview on "Fox News Sunday" in which Trump questioned whether the United States had to stick with a "one China" policy. China considers Taiwan a renegade province.
Mexico's relationship with China appeared to cool after Pena Nieto scrapped high-profile rail and retail projects that were supposed to usher in a new era of business between the manufacturing rivals.
But Mexico last week awarded two deepwater oil blocks to China's Offshore Oil Corporation during a historic auction that was part of the country's energy reform.
"The China-Mexico relationship is back on again," said Evan Ellis, a research professor at the U.S. Army War College who specializes in China's presence in Latin America.
"The election of President Trump and the associated threat to NAFTA probably was one driver for (Pena Nieto) to position Mexico to diversify its foreign economic engagements," Ellis added.
Trump has vowed to renegotiate or scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement, a trade deal important to Mexico, which includes the United States and Canada.
(Reporting by Joanna Zuckerman Bernstein and Frank Jack Daniel; Additional reporting by Christian Shepherd in Beijing; Editing by Peter Cooney and Lincoln Feast)