Mexico after Trump: Has the Time Really Come to Look Down?
Mexico is the biggest economy within the Pacific Alliance. Members praise in being the 7th or 8th largest economy in the world, but this is in great part attributed to Mexico’s membership.
This is why it is worth questioning the relevance that Mexico will give to the PA agenda during times of uncertainty regarding the future foreign policies and diplomacy by its neighbour and largest commercial partner the US.
As Trump seems to follow through on some of his campaign proposals, Mexico will need to work out its strategy towards the US and define its corresponding offensive and defensive interests. It will soon become the number one priority of Mexico’s foreign policy which could deviate the attention from the PA implementation.
One scenario is if the NAFTA renegotiation takes place. Renegotiation would be a time-consuming endevour that would demand extensive public consultations and the involvement of several interest groups. As some experts have pointed out, this would be the only way to reach a deal that looks after the defensive and offensive interests of Mexico while balancing the negotiation with the US. The original NAFTA negotiations took a long time, and general wisdom suggests that similar agreements take at least two years or more to be concluded and the same time to enter into force. If TPP (Transpacific Partnership) was at the forefront of the main concerns of trade officials in Mexico, its place will be taken by NAFTA renegotiation instead of PA implementation. This scenario is still uncertain because future renegotiation has been bogged down with the recent announcement by President Trump that the construction of the border wall with Mexico will commence soon. In the meantime, Canada has signalled an intention to renegotiate a trade deal with the US with or without Mexico in it.
NAFTA update could bring indirect benefits to the PA by pushing additional regulatory and domestic policy reforms. However, this outcome is contingent on the approach taken by a future negotiation between the three NAFTA members and final approval by the US Congress.
A second scenario is that tensions between Mexico and Trump will escalate with the implementation of further measures by the latter that follow a populist and nationalist approach to its role in the presidency. This situation will likely push Mexico to divert its economic dependency towards more diversified markets in Asia, Europe and down in Latin America. This would be a process that takes time and for which Mexico and the Mexicans are not well prepared.
Up to this point, Mexico has not signaled an interest in becoming the leader driving the progress of the PA, despite its economic power that would suggest it as the natural leader. This is due to some extent with the lower levels of economic interdependence and commercial ties with its South American counterparts. There are no real economic incentives that would retribute on that leadership. However political pressures of the current relations with the US could trigger more proactive actions by Mexico to implement the free markets that PA attempts to pursue.
Time will tell…
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