Andrés Rozental is a former deputy foreign minister of Mexico.
U.S. President Donald Trump has been in office for just a week and has already caused serious damage to his country's relationship with Mexico, a neighbour, friend and NAFTA partner. How this has come about is a mystery to most Mexicans – and perhaps also to Americans, who must watch their new leader offend, harass and blackmail a country that, together with Canada, has been a close economic and political ally of the United States. From the very outset of his political campaign through the beginning of his presidency, Mr. Trump has maligned Mexicans by calling them rapists, criminals and undesirables. That is the background of the current, tense relationship between our two governments.
When Barack Obama left the White House last week, the state of our bilateral ties was probably the best it has been in a long time. Trade, investment, collaboration on border security – all were at an all-time high. Mr. Trump has put this all at risk with his bullying tactics and attempts at blackmailing President Enrique Peña Nieto and Mexico into paying for a border wall that we neither believe in nor are willing to help build. Additionally, the new leader of our neighbour to the north has characterized NAFTA as "the worst agreement ever negotiated by the United States" and has threatened to pull out of the treaty if his as-yet unspecified demands for change aren't met. Perhaps these are the tactics of Donald Trump as a wheeler-dealer in the world of business, but they certainly do not befit a statesman or president of the leading global power.
Now that Mr. Peña Nieto's working visit to Washington has been cancelled as a result of Mr. Trump's offensive tweets about the wall, and the high-level team Mexico had sent to Washington to discuss an array of issues has returned to Mexico City, there seem to be few avenues open in the short term to put the relationship back where it was a week ago. Our foreign and economic ministers were blindsided by Mr. Trump's signing of executive orders to move ahead with building a wall and adopting anti-immigrant policies on the same day the ministers arrived in Washington, where they faced a very inauspicious atmosphere for talks. Hopefully, U.S. public opinion, state governments, Congress and Mr. Trump's cabinet – once it is confirmed and in place – will all help him understand how much his announced policies regarding Mexico could end up harming his own country, businesses and people, as well as the high risk that they might lead to an unstable political and economic situation in Mexico, which surely is not in the interest of the United States.
Mexicans are also perplexed by some of the recent calls in Canada for "dumping" Mexico from NAFTA and negotiating a bilateral deal with Washington. This is both shortsighted and a mistake. If NAFTA is torn apart, Canadian investment and trade with Mexico will be adversely affected, as will the overall relationship. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has worked hard to repair the rift produced by the Harper government's imposition of a visa requirement on Mexicans, and a high-level, non-governmental leadership group has been set up to help promote a further deepening of our ties.
The Trump presidency should bring Mexico and Canada much closer together, not tear us apart. Whatever trade or investment measures the U.S. applies to our country may end up harming Canada as well and destroying the competitive advantages that the North American value chain has brought since NAFTA came into force 23 years ago.
Our trilateral strategy has been phenomenally successful in an era of globalized trade and investment. In spite of some sector-specific job dislocations in all three countries, it is wrong for Mr. Trump or anyone to blame NAFTA. Many of the U.S. and Canadian companies that came to Mexico in the past decades did so because of the solid institutional framework and certainties that NAFTA provided.
If the U.S., Canada or Mexico withdraw from the treaty, those advantages will be lost and the region's strength will be seriously undermined. Billions of dollars in trade and investment will be at risk. Canada should understand this and act to support what we have achieved, as well as help Mexico convince our mutual neighbour to change the new government's misguided and damaging attacks on our common objectives: more prosperity, more economic growth and more competitiveness for all three nations.