Last updateFri, 07 Dec 2018 11am

Trump & Mexico: How much should we fear

By the time you read this, Donald Trump has probably sent out his first tweet as president of the United States.

Given his propensity for tweeting, he may have already commented on Mexico and the plans he has in store for this country. After all, Trump famously declared that he would seek to restructure, or even terminate, the North American Free Trade Agreement from day one of his presidency – “the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere” were his exact words.

Bluster aside, Mexico is correct to feel trepidation about the Trump administration, despite the assertions of incoming Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that he will “engage” with this country, which he described as a “long-standing friend of the United States.”  But exactly how much is there to worry about?  A stable and healthy Mexico is vital to U.S. interests, even if the new president hasn’t quite grasped this fact at this moment.

Tillerson’s “engagement” will likely translate into talks surrounding trade, and possible adjustments to Nafta protocols, something that Mexico would be wise to consider rather than “renegotiation.” 

While slapping 35 percent tariffs on Mexican exports would only incite a trade war, “tweaks” that make the accord seem “fairer” to U.S. firms could be a “get-out” to both Mexico and Trump, who may soon be seeking ways to appear to be carrying out his threats without actually going through with them.

And what about the border wall? Trump has already said he would accept fencing instead of a brick-and-mortar wall “for certain areas,” and there’s plenty of speculation that Trump all along has intended to create a “virtual” wall patrolled by thousands of drones.

And lastly, could Trump actually carry out the massive deportations of undocumented citizens – maybe as many as nine million Mexicans – that he promised during his presidential campaign? Independent sources say he’ll be hard pushed to do any better than Barack Obama in this regard – the 44th president set records for deportations during his eight years at the helm. Financing mass deportations is a non-starter, it is generally agreed. 

Mexico is, of course, a fatalist country, and its citizens like to embrace Doomsday scenarios. The optimists amongst us, however, would prefer to believe that measured heads will always prevail and that the treasured bilateral relationship will not be shunted off course by a runaway train.

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