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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

|

OCTOBER 2016

39

T

he 2016 U.S. presidential election really

matters toMexico. As North American

Free Trade Agreement partners and

bordering countries, the United States

andMexico are linked through trade,

investment, immigration and shared

natural resources, as well as security and

law enforcement challenges.

We share a 2,000-mile border

through which hundreds of thousands of people cross daily.

Two-way trade between the United States and Mexico is valued

at about $1.4 billion a day. Mexico is our top tourist destination,

and the United States is theirs. The population of Hispanics of

Mexican origin in the United States reached 33.7 million in 2012,

according to the Pew Research Center, including 11.4 million

immigrants born in Mexico and 22.3 million born in the United

States.

NAFTA, illegal immigration and securing the U.S.-Mexican

border are major issues in the campaign. Donald Trump’s sound

bites on these issues have provoked consternation and indigna-

tion in Mexico. A poll published by Mexico’s

Reforma

newspa-

Mexico

, NAFTA and

Election 2016

Though it is not the first U.S. election that has really mattered to Mexico,

there may be more at stake this time than ever before.

BY XEN I A V. WI LK I NSON

Xenia Wilkinson is a retired Foreign Service officer. She

served twice in Mexico City, from 1981 to 1984 and from

1991 to 1994.

FOCUS

ON THE U.S. ELECTION

per in May showed that 83 percent of Mexicans prefer Hillary

Clinton, compared to 3 percent for Donald Trump as the future

U.S. president.

Both candidates are skeptical about free trade agreements. In

this period of slow economic growth, critics in the United States

argue that NAFTA is to blame for job losses and wage stagnation,

driven by low-wage competition fromMexico and a $60 billion

bilateral trade deficit. Donald Trump called for “a total renegotia-

tion of NAFTA, which is a disaster for our country. If we don’t get

a better deal, we will walk away.” Hillary Clinton also expressed

reservations: “I have said repeatedly that I would like to renegotiate

[the agreement]. I think there were parts of it that did not work as

hoped for.”

Donald Trump’s hyperbolic comments about the U.S.-Mexico

border andMexican immigrants generated evenmore indignation

inMexico. InMarch, President Enrique Peña Nieto declared that

his country will not pay for Trump’s proposed wall, and con-

demned his “strident” tone. After Trump’s nomination, Peña Nieto

took a different tack when he spoke to the press at the White House

on July 22: “ToMrs. Hillary Clinton andMr. Donald Trump, I want

to express my highest respect.” He pledged a “frank and open dia-

logue” with the winner of the election, and declared: “The Mexican

government will be observing with great interest the electoral

process, but it will not give its opinion—it will not get involved.”

Then, in a surprise initiative, Peña Nieto invited both candidates

to visit him. Hillary Clinton declined the invitation. Trumpmet