The New York Times reports: Not long ago, any suggestion that Mexico might walk away from the North American Free Trade Agreement would have been met with utter disbelief.
That was before Donald J. Trump was elected president of the United States.
Free trade is a mantra of Mexico’s political elite, the core of the country’s development strategy.
But now that Mr. Trump has said he wants to renegotiate Nafta, a growing number of Mexican officials and businesspeople are asking what price is worth paying to stay in it. Many of them are concluding that Mexico could have more to lose from years of haggling and economic uncertainty than from simply opting out.
“There could be no other option,” Mexico’s economy minister, Ildefonso Guajardo, said on Tuesday in a televised interview. “If we go for something that is less than what we have, well, then there is no sense in staying.”
About $1.4 billion in goods go back and forth across the Mexico-United States border every day. The United States buys almost 80 percent of Mexico’s exports, and Mexico is the second-largest market in the world for American goods.
Exactly how Mr. Trump’s government is proposing to renegotiate that flow is still unclear. The Mexican government says that Mr. Guajardo and Mexico’s foreign minister, Luis Videgaray, expect to get a first look when they arrive in Washington on Wednesday for two days of talks with officials in the Trump administration.
Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, is then scheduled to meet Mr. Trump on Jan 31.
The Mexican government’s talk of walking away from Nafta if the Trump administration demands terms that are too tough could be strategic bluster, a tactic to begin the discussions on stronger footing.
To drive home Mexico’s importance to the United States, the Mexicans also intend to raise many other issues that bind the countries together, including migration, border security and drug trafficking.
The United States depends on Mexico to fight drug cartels and stop migrants from Central America and other regions who are trying to reach the United States. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump is expected to sign an executive order to build a wall on the border.
Mr. Peña Nieto’s government is trying to present “a package deal” to the Trump administration, in a tacit warning that the proposed wall would be an inadequate replacement for Mexico’s help on migration and security.
The message Mexico hopes to deliver is that “if you build your wall, the wall will have to substitute everything that we used to do,” said Jorge Castañeda, a former Mexican foreign minister. [Continue reading…]