Mexico’s future in the balance

Presidents of Mexico and the U.S. sit at a bilateral meeting
Hamburg, July 7, 2017: Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto (L), before a face-to-face meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump at the G20 Summit (source: dpa)
  • Opening the Mexican economy to competition and introducing some transparency to the state administration is slowly bringing results
  • U.S. government officials have mostly struck a conciliatory tone with Mexico despite President Donald Trump’s tough talk
  • Mexican voters, however, have grown impatient with the political elite’s inability to curb violence and corruption

Early this year, relations between the United States and Mexico seemed to be unraveling. Soon after taking office on January 20, 2017, President Donald Trump claimed to be ready to tighten immigration controls, build a border wall between the two countries and even withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Mexico had been riding high only a few years before, after a series of economic and political reforms under President Enrique Pena Nieto. Suddenly, it was facing an existential threat to the very foundation of its export-based economy.

In recent months, those concerns have eased. The U.S. Congress has refused to fund the border wall, and the U.S. immigration authorities have not tightened enforcement as much as had been feared. The Trump administration has not withdrawn from NAFTA but instead proposed a modest update of the accord through new negotiations. The two countries even hosted a high-level summit to address Central American migration, an acknowledgement that the U.S. needs the cooperation of its southern neighbor to tackle hemispheric issues. But even though the Mexican government has (so far) avoided catastrophe, Mr. Pena Nieto’s government appears to be limping in the latter part of his term.

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