Donald Trump hasn’t even taken office and yet he’s already had a negative impact on Mexico’s national interests, opposing new sources of employment from companies such as Carrier and Ford, both of which have promised to bring investments in capital and infrastructure to diverse regions of the country. His tweets and irrational comments have likewise had an impact vis-à-vis the devaluation of our currency, according to specialists. Of course, once he’s sworn into office before the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, many worse things will come.
Having not yet reached the office of the president, having not yet announced any plan, piece of legislation or public policy program, and having made exclusive use of threats and press statements, Trump has heralded in a new era in relations between Mexico and his government — at least for the next four years. Depending on the U.S. populace and whether it wants to safeguard its democracy or not, it could be eight years. For this very reason, Barack Obama’s farewell message was not a waste at all.
Unfortunately, there are chapters within the history of the 20th century that should serve as reminders of how fragile the Mexican government has been when a leader arises who makes promises — which, while impossible to keep, the people readily accept — in exchange for removing traditional politicians that have abused the people’s trust and generated a great deal of popular frustration. How else could the Trump phenomenon, Brexit or other such expressions of rancor against the establishment be explained? Russian hacking is insufficient to explain how millions of votes were cast against all common sense.
The new relationship between the United States and Mexico will undoubtedly be a tense and complicated one, given that the positions Trump has embraced and wants to push forward within the bilateral agenda are highly adverse to both nations’ mutual interests. Once the floodgates are open, however, our interests and rights will be encroached upon further. In such a scenario, we must assert ourselves before the appropriate authorities and throughout the diverse media at our disposal in order to defend not only our country’s positions but also the expectations and needs of the millions of our compatriots living inside the United States.
In the face of this new scenario, which will begin to take effect in less than a week, do we know what to do and with whom? Do we know how to defend the country in a dignified and unwavering manner? For the good of Mexico and of all, I hope that the new secretary of foreign affairs, Luís Videgaray Caso, doesn’t take long to get up to speed on the subject.
Lucky for us, though, the new American president is opening up a number of battlefronts, both internal and external. This is good news, as diverse actors and states could join forces, under a common purpose, to face down the U.S. Goliath.
Like any good despot, Trump disdains criticism and freedom of expression; when dealing with the media — a group including both journalists and executives — he behaves in quite a hostile manner and shows them little empathy. Someone should remind him, though, that in democracies like the United States, the media, which functions as a “check” within society, has succeeded in removing presidents from office in the past; just ask Richard Nixon about Watergate.
With regard to U.S. foreign policy, there are three main threats to us that have already been expressed: namely, the construction of a segregationist wall, with the objective being that Mexico pays for it; the massive deportation of our compatriots; and the renegotiation of the North America Free Trade Agreement, presumably to impose new tariff quotas, which will do away with the spirit of free trade in the region.
It is clear that new threats could very well appear within Trump’s inaugural address, which could lead to even worse outcomes for Mexico if we fail to understand the gravity of the issue and react without strength, force or competency. Whatever may come, no one must falter —not even in scheduling undesirable and unnecessary meetings.
Jorge Islas is an academic from the National Autonomous University of Mexico.