In whose national interest?


WilsonCenter Mexico Institute
Luis Rubio

 There was a time when the United States understood that its foremost national interest lay in having a prosperous, successful neighbor. That stood in stark contrast with the traditional Mexican perspective, which saw the US as the country’s foremost foe. NAFTA made it possible to align both nations’ interests and helped transform Mexico’s economy into an export powerhouse, benefitting most Mexicans. Clearly, not everything in Mexico is good or even desirable, but there’s hardly a doubt that the country has undergone a dramatic transformation over the past four decades. NAFTA’s renegotiation is far from perfect, but it responds to both the changes the world and technology have brought about, a well as with the political realities of the United States today.

President Trump’s surprising announcement that he would impose tariffs on Mexico’s exports lest Mexico’s government controls immigration flows from third nations raises questions about whether the American policy community understands the consequences his policies might lead to at this particularly harrowing moment for Mexico. AMLO would rather take his country back into the era in which the government controlled society and the economy, a time characterized by far more poverty than anything that exists today.

Mr. Trump’s rationale may well fit into his own domestic political calculations, but it begs the question: does he understand what a radical shift in Mexican politics and political economy that results from his own provocations might mean for his own country and for the future?