It had been a few weeks since Donald Trump stopped irritating Mexico. His silence brought about not just an improvement in bilateral relations but also created a good mood to start renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
The bad news is that The Donald is back to his Twitter tantrums against Mexico and last Sunday — doesn’t a U.S. president have better things to do than nag his neighbors? — Trump tweeted:
“Eventually, but at a later date so we can get started early, Mexico will be paying, in some form, for the badly needed border wall.”
A similar statement forced Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto to cancel a programmed trip to Washington to try to mend fences with Trump. The trip did not happen because Trump last January tweeted that if President Peña Nieto did not want to pay for the wall, he’d better not even show up at the White House. Much to the chagrin of The Donald and the enthusiastic applause of Mexicans, Peña Nieto gave Mr. Trump the cold shoulder.
Diplomatic relations with the United States continue seamlessly because Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Videgaray has done a good job of not allowing Trump to do what he does best, irritate the hell out of those who disagree with him.
But then, watch out Mexico. The Twitter maniac is back on track just as the road is being paved to start NAFTA renegotiations, perhaps as soon as next September.
The real question at hand is what will be renegotiated on a bilateral basis as apparently President Trump does not want a tri-lateral negotiation with Canada and Mexico as was done back in 1993 with U.S. President George Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and of course, Mexico President Carlos Salinas.
Most likely the Trump administration will not open up all of the 22 chapters, seven aggregates and complementary agreements on labor and the environment that NAFTA is made of.
There are about nine themes the Trump administration will be focusing on. Among them are intellectual property, electronic trade, rules of origin and policies to eliminate subsidies and prevent antidumping commercial tactics.
Mexico originally wanted to include issues like immigration, border security and anti-money laundering operations. But the United States wants to keep NAFTA on strictly business negotiations. The other issues will most definitely come to the negotiating table, but on a separate basis and outside NAFTA.
Definitely the United States will try to level off the trade deficit it has created, particularly with Mexico, as Mexico now exports 26 billion and imports 23.6 billion which apparently Trump wants to make up for with the already infamous Border Adjustment Tax (BAT), which Mexico is opposing right up front.
The BAT will most definitely be at the crux of the negotiations, and Mexican Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo has already said that if taxes are slapped on free trade, Mexico may even pull out altogether of NAFTA.
We’ll see what the shape of things to come is for the future of trade between Mexico and the United States, but in all of this President Trump must keep in mind that the “disastrous” NAFTA negotiations were the brainchild of his own Republican Party, and not former President Bill Clinton, as he stated in his many post-truths.
And most definitely, the GOP has no gripes against NAFTA, only the bitter gringos who voted Trump president.
But much of this depends on what Trump will tweet next.