Already, burnt his fingers in dealing with Communist China on the trade issue and North Korea’s denuclearization matter, Trump didn’t want any mess around US, especially in Mexico
By Shankar Kumar
In the just concluded presidential election in Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a Left leaning political leader won the race. He will be sworn in on December 1, 2018 for the six-year term in Mexico. But Mercurial Trump, who has a habit of telling something else in the morning and quite different in the evening on even a serious matter, scratched his head in frustration.
In fact, if anything that worried him the most was the prospect of building a long promised security wall along US-Mexico border, which he feared would not easily come up when Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, also called by his abbreviated name AMLO, was going to be the new custodian of Mexican power. He is US President Donald Trump’s truncheon critic.
Already, burnt his fingers in dealing with Communist China on the trade issue and North Korea on the denuclearization matter, Trump didn’t want any mess around the US. On July 13, he sent his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo along with other top US officials, including Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, the US President’s point man for global affairs in the White House to Mexico to discuss border wall issue, irregular immigration, transnational crime and trade with President-elect AMLO incumbent President Enrique Pena Nieto and Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray.
It was the US’ belated damage control exercise with Mexico as bilateral relations hit several rough spots since Trump became President on January 20, 2017. His agenda to erect a wall along the US-Mexico border to keep the flow of illegal migrants from the North American country in check and to punish Mexicans for “unfairly benefitting” trade ties with the US have not gone down well with the people of this North American country.
To calm down AMLO’s anti-US shrillness and make Mexico agree to border wall construction and checking of illegal migration, Washington is ready to incentivize its immediate neighbour. Faced with bad economic situation, Mexico may agree with the US on some of the issues. But experts say it is less likely that AMLO or the incumbent Mexican President joins the chorus with Americans on construction of border security wall and that too with money from millions of Mexican tax payers.
However, there is desperation among the Trump administration to improve the US relations with Mexico, given that Canada, another immediate neighbour of America, has also hit Washington below the belt. Taking a tit-for-tat move against the US, Canada has begun imposing tariff on $12.6 billion on US goods. Ottawa has slapped 25 per cent tariffs on steel and iron imported from the US, while other American imports like pizza, dishwater detergent, ketchup are also facing a 10 per cent tariff. Canada is the US’ second-biggest trade partner in goods, just behind China. The two-way trade between Canada and the US is $673.9 billion. President Trump has claimed that Canada has a trade surplus with the US. In March, 2018, he announced imposing 25 per cent tariff on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum imported from Canada, and such punishment was also imposed on imports from Europe. At the 44th G-7 meet in Quebec in Canada in June, an explosive situation occurred when leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Macron and others cornered Trump on the trade issue.
But more explosive was Trump’s reaction against Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau whom he had described as “meek and mild.” “PM Justin Trudeau of Canada acted so meek and mild during our @G7 meetings only to give a news conference after I left saying that, “US tariffs were kind of insulting” and he “will not be pushed around.” Very dishonest & weak. Our tariffs are in response to his 270 per cent on dairy,” Trump tweeted.
In this background, arrival of AMLO as the next Mexico President has only increased tension for the US President. The next North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) meet is round the corner once again. The US wants to keep its North American neighbours in good humour as the on-going trade war with China is not going to end soon. In the May, NAFTA had a ministerial meeting, but it remained inconclusive. Now that AMLO is about to sit on the hot seat of Mexico, the US administration wants to re-engage Mexico and Canada on trade issue under the banner of NAFTA. The May meeting of the trade group remained inconclusive as the US put conditions on certain trade matters.
Nevertheless, the US policies have cast shadow on the country’s international engagement. It is threatening to withdraw from the World Trade Organisation, which was formed to address trade related grievances of 123 countries, which are signatories of the international trade body. This has further eroded the country’s image. Today, majority of opinion survey polls conducted in the US suggest that international respect for America has waned in the past one year since Donald Trump has become the President. A Gallup poll conducted between March and November 2017 found that international approval for US leadership was just 30 per cent, down from 48 per cent in 2016 when Barack Obama was the US President. Even the US’ strongest European allies believe that Trump is arrogant, dangerous and intolerant. In contrast, German and French leaders are viewed positively by the world.
But question doesn’t end with Trump’s leadership alone. There are overarching international views that the US has only increased the tension across the world; unending Middle-East crisis is seen as a major failure of the US policy on the security front, so is the continued problem in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region. Amid this, a Left leaning leader’s arrival in Mexico has given Americans a reason to feel chary about its image as a recalcitrant state.