Prime Minister Stephen Harper has arrived in Mexico to meet with his North American counterparts with a plan to boost Mexican travel to Canada, despite the controversial visa requirements.

The Canadian Press reports that Trade Minister Ed Fast has been authorized to sign an expanded airline access agreement with Mexico.

The agreement would give Mexican airlines greater access to more Canadians cities, while Canadian travellers would benefit from more direct flights to Mexico, according to CP.

The expanded airlines agreement is seen as a pathway to eventually lifting the visa requirements Ottawa imposed on Mexican travellers in 2009 to deter bogus asylum seekers.

Senior officials have confirmed to CTV News that Harper is not expected to lift the visa requirements any time soon. But there are rumblings that a fast-track process for frequent, pre-approved Mexican travellers – similar to the Nexus program -- could be put in place.

The visa issue has been a source of tension between Canada and Mexico and is expected to cast a shadow over the North American leaders’ summit. There are also tensions between U.S. and Canada over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project.

Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson said Monday that signalling an eventual lifting of the visa requirement is important because of the significance of Canada’s trade relationship with Mexico.

“I would be surprised if we don’t come out of (the summit) with at least something that gives the Mexicans what they are asking for, which is a pathway to lifting the visa,” he told CTV’s Power Play.

But Carlo Dade of the Canada West Foundation says the leaders of the three countries – often referred to as “the Three Amigos” – are now “perhaps worse than rivals.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever been more depressed about the state of relations,” he told Power Play. “The Mexicans are mad at us, and in Canada, we’re mad at the Americans and the Americans seem to have had it up to here with both of us.”

He said he doesn’t foresee anything positive coming out of the summit, and believes most of the time will be spent on “damage control.”

Harper will meet on Tuesday with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, and then participate in the North American leaders' summit with U.S. President Barack Obama.

With files from The Canadian Press