U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Roberta S. Jacobson spoke about the relationship between Mexico and the United States after recent political turmoil, as well as the ongoing role of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) at The Economist’s Mexico Summit on Wednesday.
Questioned about the damage that recent remarks made by presidential candidate Donald Trump about Mexico in the run-up to November’s elections, Ambassador Jacobson noted that the relationship between the two nations would continue to be warm regardless.
“It survives political crises, it survives economical crises certainly,” she said. “And there’s no doubt that there are things being said this election that are ugly, that are offensive to Mexicans, and that are contrary to the reality that I’ve experienced here.”
The North American project survives, she believes, even if it is “tossed about a little bit.”
Answering a question from host and The Economist Americas editor Brooke Unger, Ambassador Jacobson was resolute in her belief that due to the integration between Mexico and the U.S., even if NAFTA were to be repealed tomorrow, the lived reality of both nations’ populations would not be affected.
“The two could seek to denounce or get out of NAFTA tomorrow and it wouldn’t change the reality on the ground,” she said. “It wouldn’t change the integration that we see among our countries.”
Ambassador Jacobson praised NAFTA, saying the agreement has improved the prosperity of people across North America, which will not change even if the much-criticized trade agreement between 12 Pacific Rim nations, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), is ratified in January.
“There is the reality of business people, the reality of integration of our economies, the reality of the prospects for greater integration that enhances our competitiveness as a region that I don’t think can be changed with pieces of paper,” said Jacobson. “I think they can be encouraged with things like TPP and other high standard trade agreements but I don’t think you can undo 22 years of progress in this area.”
Mexico’s trade with the United States is as healthy as always, she claimed, citing AT&T’s recent commitment in Mexico.
In responding to Unger’s question about recent comments by both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump that NAFTA could be readjusted or reassessed, the ambassador told the audience that the United States’ current administration sees the TPP as the next step in trade relations between the countries.
“It’s very clear to us that as we look at NAFTA, look at the successes and look at over 400 percent increase in trade, we know that the next step, in terms of NAFTA, quite honestly, is TPP,” she said.
But she was careful to reassure those present of the role of NAFTA in transnational co-operation.
“When we confronted SARS, when we confronted H1N1, it was an extraordinary experiment where the three nations worked together,” she said. “Now as we confront Zika in parts of the world, I don’t think that TPP makes NAFTA irrelevant but it may make the strictly trade part of NAFTA, as a larger experiment, less visible. But in a way that’s a good thing because it tells you that we’ve progressed beyond NAFTA.”