How Well Is Mexico Handling Relations With the U.S.?

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Mexican Presidential hopeful Andrés Manuel López Obrador, pictured greeting supporters in Oaxaca on March 18, has criticized President Enrique Peña Nieto’s handling of relations with the Trump administration. // Photo: lopezobrador.org.mx.

Mexican presidential hopeful Andrés Manuel López Obrador criticized Enrique Peña Nieto during a March 15 visit to Washington, saying the current Mexican president has taken a subordinate stance in relation to his U.S. counterpart, Donald Trump. López Obrador said that if elected Mexico’s president next year, he would foster a relationship with the United States that is based on respect. How well is Peña Nieto’s government handling relations with the Trump administration? What strategies are guiding Mexico’s foreign policy, both with the United States and other countries? Would more prickly relations with the United States lead Mexico to strengthen diplomatic and trade ties with other countries?

Andrés Rozental, member of the Advisor board, president of Rozental & Asociados in Mexico City and senior policy advisor at Chatham House: “To a great extent, I agree with López Obrador’s criticism of the Peña Nieto government’s stance toward Donald Trump, his administration, his campaign and his transition to the presidency of the United States. The Mexican government was silent and complacent during the almost two years that Trump based much of his political quest for the presidency on attacks against Mexicans and Mexico. Had we responded to Trump’s insults and aggressive statements with a strong official position from the very beginning, we might have been able to avoid his derogatory use of Mexico to get elected. As for Peña Nieto’s handling of the Mexico-U.S. relationship, the overriding strategy and objective appears to be to save NAFTA and our free-trade relationship at all costs, as well as to protect the millions of Mexicans living in the United States. Both of these are defensive in nature rather than proactive. I believe that Trump respects strength and conviction in his counterparts, not weakness. Mexico needs to play its cards intelligently and aggressively if there is any expectation..”

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