The Mexican government and senior Canadian business leaders have held discussions in recent weeks over proceeding with a bilateral free-trade deal if the US House of Representatives votes against North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that Wednesday. Senior members of the Chretien government, including International Trade Minister Roy MacLaren and Finance Minister Paul Martin, have been briefed about the idea and are said to be enthusiastic. One well-placed source in Ottawa said: 'Right now, it would be irresponsible for anyone in the Canadian government to go running around saying what-if'. But little doubt is left that if NAFTA does go down in Washington, Ottawa will be quick off the mark to hammer out some arrangement with Mexico, and maybe even extend the deal to Chile. The two businessmen argue that for Canada to jump into the breach where the United States fears to tread would send a powerful signal to Latin America and Asia.