One day after discussing again with the Mexican Senate parameters for negotiations with the U.S., Foreign Minister Videgaray made a previously unannounced trip to Washington, where he met with presidential assistants Jared Kushner and Gary Cohn. At a press conference at the Mexican embassy afterwards, Videgaray reiterated his optimistic timetable for trade talks with the U.S.:
“I want to be precise. Based on conversations today at the White House … both countries will be able to formally start a dialogue on trade issues at the end of June or, perhaps, at the beginning of July.”
This is a far more aggressive timetable than Wilbur Ross had suggested one day earlier, and would require the U.S. administration to send to Congress the required 90-day notice under the TPA no later than the beginning of April.
Foreign Minister Videgaray testimony in the Senate 2/28 included several red lines and must-haves.
U.S. immigration law and enforcement
- A strictly U.S. domestic issue, and Mexico will not get involved in an internal U.S. debate, BUT:
- Mexico will not accept any non-Mexican deportees.
- Mexico will protect the human rights of Mexicans in the U.S., and pursue any violations in international forums
- There needs to be continued cooperation and coordination on border security matters; threats and insults need to cease
- No militarization of the border
- Mexicans leaving the U.S. (both voluntarily and involuntarily) must keep their rights to Social Security earned
- U.S. and Mexico need to cooperate on Central America
We will not negotiate the Free Trade Agreement from the defendant’s dock. Any negotiation between the parties must start from the premise that this has been an agreement that has generated important benefits for all three parties.
- Mexico will undertake the trade negotiations, “without pause, but without haste”
- No tariffs or quotas.
- Negotiation should include mechanisms to support rising wages for Mexican workers, so the “production model” isn’t based on cheap labor.
- Construction of the wall is a hostile act, and Mexico will not collaborate in any way; but it is a sovereign matter for the U.S.
- Mexico will pursue any violation of international law in international forums.
U.S. Tax regime
- Mexico must be prepared to change its own tax regime if changes to US tax law affect Mexican interests or the economic competitiveness.
Drug trafficking / cartels
- U.S. must assume its responsibility to reduce demand, and stop the flow of guns and money.
- No measures that restrict the flow of remittances or increase their cost.
Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray appeared before the full Senate to present outline the government’s posture on the negotiations with the U.S. across the full range of issues. He and the Senate agreed that they would prepare a document “to regulate and delimit” the negotiations, to be signed by both the administration and the Senate. The Senate leadership said they would have a draft to discuss when Videgaray returns on 3/7.
The principal points Videgaray made are here.
The major question is whether Mexico is willing to negotiate trade issues on a stand-alone basis, or will insist on an all-or-nothing “integral” negotiation, where trade, migration, the border, cooperation on security, and drug trafficking are all on the table. The former offers the prospect of a revised NAFTA in less than a year. The latter would ensure that nothing gets resolved before both countries move into full election mode in 2018.
The Mexican government is operating on the assumption that NAFTA negotiations will begin in June, although the Trump administration has not yet given the required 90-day notice to Congress.
Foreign Secretary Videgaray termed the meetings held by him and Government Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong with U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary Kelly as “frank.”
This visit occurs a complex moment in the relationship of the two countries. Among Mexicans, there is a preoccupation and irritation with what they perceive as policies of the U.S. that could be damaging to them.
Today we discussed different issues on the agenda, knowing that this is a process that will be long and not necessarily easy. Today we took important steps in the right direction. Undoubtedly, we have some coincidences. The first of these is the need to keep working and having dialogue in an uninterrupted manner.
Even when President Trump and senior U.S. officials go out of their way to say positive things about cooperation with Mexico, their manner of expression reinforces negative interpretations of their intentions. Two current examples from Trump’s interview before the Super Bowl and Secretary Kelly’s testimony in Congress together with Mexican columnist reactions:
What the U.S. says:
Trump: We have to do something about the cartels. I did talk to [Peña Nieto] about it. I want to help him with it. … He seemed very willing to get help from us because he has got a problem, and it’s a real problem for us. … We get along very well. But they have problems controlling aspects of their country.
Kelly: If the drugs are in the United States, we’ve lost. … I think a huge partner here is Mexico. If we can help them get after the poppy production, … if we can help them get after the production labs, if we can help them get after the heroin, the methamphetamine … before it gets to the border.
What Mexican commentators hear:
Alejandro Hope: The “aid” that Trump is supposedly offering isn’t aid: it is war. … There isn’t … a recognition of the co-responsibility of the two countries with the problem of transnational organized crime. … Trump’s offer is … bullets for the narcos in Mexico – period. If this is aid, I prefer open threats.
Salvador García Soto: What Trump suggested and Kelly confirmed is to take the Merida Initiative to the next level and relaunch it as a new “Plan Mexico,” similar to “Plan Colombia.” … a military assistance plan … which the Americans would coordinate and execute–with the Mexican army and police as “allies” and subordinates.
Raymundo Riva Palacio: This plan would signify the end of the ability of Los Pinos [the Mexican White House] to take independent and autonomous decisions, through a monumental qualitative change in the bilateral cooperation over the past 10 years: the fight against drugs would depend strategically and tactically on the United States.
More extensive quotes are below.
The President formally outlined today his foreign policy principles and goals with respect to the United States. A translation of the principal points is here.
Per the WaPo story:
Videgaray said. “Many people ask us: How is Mexico going to react?”
He said some people are calling for a strategy of confrontation with Trump, while others are predicting Mexico will act with “shameful submission.”
“Mexico will not choose either of these false paths,” he said, but rather would act with “dignity and with intelligence, opening the doors of dialogue and of negotiation in order to defend the interests of Mexico and Mexicans.”