Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador met this week in Washington with US President Donald Trump in López Obrador’s first trip abroad since taking office in December 2018. The Inter-American Dialogue invited some key experts, such as Martha Bárcena, Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, to comment on the significance of this trip. Michael Shifter offered his comments for a number of publications reflecting on the relationship between the two leaders and the outcome of the meeting.
BEFORE THE MEETING
To analyze the relevance and repercussions of this meeting, earlier this week and before the meeting, the Latin America Advisor featured the Q&A “What Will AMLO Gain From His Visit to the White House?”. Martha Bárcena, Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, was one of the featured commentators:
“President López Obrador decided to make this trip to celebrate the entry into force of the USMCA and to endorse a new economic chapter for the region. He wants to give his full political endorsement to an agreement that is expected to strengthen regional value chains and attract new investment in a decisive moment for the global economy. Furthermore, he wants to thank the U.S. government for supporting the creation of an airbridge between the two countries to send 420 ventilators to Mexico for its fight against coronavirus and maintain a close coordination in any future efforts directed to combat the pandemic. […]”
Arturo Sarukhan, member of the Inter-American Dialogue’s board of directors and former Mexican ambassador to the United States, Earl Anthony Wayne, co-chair of the Mexico Institute Advisory Board at the Wilson Center and former US ambassador to Mexico, and Laura Carlsen, director of the Americas program of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) also commented in this Q&A, which asked:
- What are the main items on López Obrador’s agenda for the trip?
- What is each president looking to gain from the meeting?
- Why has López Obrador taken so long to travel internationally as president, and how does his administration’s foreign policy compare to those of his predecessors?
Also before the meeting between the two dignitaries took place, Michael Shifter was interviewed for this piece by EFE “López Obrador y Trump, dos presidentes y un destino “mesiánico.” Shifter and Peter Hakim also shared their impressions for a number of other publications:
“Before his resounding election victory two years ago, AMLO leveled harsh denunciations against Trump and his administration that resulted in a book, ‘Oye, Trump’ (‘Listen, Trump’). He fiercely opposed [Mr. Trump’s] border wall and vowed to counter all of Trump’s anti-Mexico tweets. On that score, AMLO positioned himself as a leftist, setting up what seemed to be an inevitable clash with Trump. But right after his win, AMLO sang a radically different tune, starting with an over-the-top friendly letter to Trump that signaled a notably accommodationist stance towards the US administration, a move not exactly out of the leftist playbook.”
“The clearest measure of that accommodation towards Trump has been on the immigration issue, with Mexico adopting a hard-line security approach on its southern border. Mr. Lopez Obrador’s goal seems to be to keep Trump happy and the United States at bay, even more so than previous, non-leftist Mexican presidents.”
“La gran sorpresa en la relación entre Trump (un presidente conservador) y López Obrador, al que a menudo se le describe como izquierdista, es que prácticamente ha estado exenta de tensión. Es un contraste muy fuerte con la relación de Trump con Peña Nieto, que combatía mucho más la agenda de Trump.”
“AMLO ha gestionado sus relaciones con Trump de manera pragmática. Sabe que Trump tiene mejores cartas y tiene que acomodarse a sus exigencias y amenazas.”
AFTER THE MEETING
After the meeting between AMLO and Trump, Michael Shifter was interviewed for Cuestión de Poder, from NTN24, when he discussed the meeting between Trump and AMLO at the White House, and its consequences for the United States, Mexico, and also Venezuela. Shifter also offered an interview for CGTN following the meeting, which focus on US-Mexico trade relations and the differences between NAFTA and USMCA. He also shared his thoughts on the meeting with EFE, the LATimes, and Univision.
“[El encuentro entre AMLO y Trump tuvo] un cierto elemento surrealista.”
“Trump can tout one of his few foreign policy achievements and claim that by renegotiating NAFTA, the United States ended up with a better deal. He can also appear with a Mexican president, whose people and migrants Trump has relentlessly insulted but who has nonetheless been notably accommodating to the US president on a range of issues. López Obrador seems determined to keep Trump happy and keep the United States at bay.”
“Si bien AMLO le concedió un regalo para que Trump busque un mayor apoyo entre los votantes hispanos, el líder mexicano también consiguió lo que buscaba. Él está interesado por la política doméstica en México. AMLO (está) sintiendo un poco su caída en las encuestas por la economía y la pandemia y puede conseguir una subida modesta en las encuestas.”