Mexico to Counter Republican Calls for Border Wall

March 7, 2016

Mexico’s government said on Tuesday it would launch a diplomatic effort in the U.S. to remind Americans of the benefits of a close bilateral relationship, at a time when U.S. presidential candidates Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz promote building a wall between the countries.

During the campaign, Mr. Trump has called Mexican immigrants “rapists,” said he planned to build a “beautiful” wall along the border, and vowed to renegotiate the free-trade pact involving the two countries.

Former Mexican presidents have spoken out before about Mr. Trump, but the Mexican government has been silent until now.

Francisco Guzmán, chief of staff to President Enrique Peña Nieto, said the Mexican government would use its system of consulates across the U.S. to publicize the benefits of the bilateral relationship to American businesses and the general public.

The efforts will include the organization of forums with opinion leaders, businessmen and policy makers, and increasing Mexico’s lobbying clout, Mr. Guzmán told reporters.

“Mexico’s positioning in the U.S. election debate is not generally adequate,” he said. “It doesn’t reflect the constructive relationship between Mexico and the U.S.”

Mr. Trump could take a big step on Tuesday toward securing the Republican nomination for this year’s U.S. presidential election. Already the front-runner in a divided Republican field, Mr. Trump is leading in many of the 11 states holding GOP primaries and caucuses in the Super Tuesday contests.

Mr. Trump’s statements during the campaign have infuriated many Mexicans, igniting debates in the social media. In the northern city of Reynosa, one piñata maker fashioned a model after him. A Mexico City theater even staged a play last fall called “Trump’s Children,” which mocked the American billionaire.

“God save us from Trump,” said Iván Navarro, a 35-year-old lawyer in Mexico City. “His positions are so radical. There’s no room for surrender. A person that closed off, that abrasive, the only thing he knows is conflict. And the last thing we need in this world is more conflict.”

Former Mexican Presidents Vicente Fox and Felipe Calderón have publicly answered Mr. Trump with harsh words. Mr. Calderón recently said Mr. Trump’s racist comments reminded him of Hitler.

But the Mexican government itself has preferred to avoid what it considers useless media battles that could boost Mr. Trump’s notoriety.

The two nations and Canada are parties to the North American Free Trade Agreement, creating one of the world’s biggest free trade zones.

Every minute, the U.S. and Mexico exchange around $1 million in goods, according to Mexican government figures, and more than one million people and 300,000 vehicles cross the U.S.-Mexican border each day. Around 40% of the annual $339 billion of Mexican exports to the U.S. were made of components imported from the U.S.

According to a report by the Woodrow Wilson International Center, six million U.S. jobs depend on trade with Mexico.

“The U.S.-Mexico relationship requires more bridges and fewer walls. The isolationist solution is not a solution at all,” Mr. Guzmán said. Mexico has 45 consulates in the U.S., more than in any other country. Around 34 million people of Mexican origin live in the U.S.

Mr. Guzman suggested he expected Mr. Trump’s positions to soften and become more pragmatic if he becomes the Republican nominee.

“As the election campaign advances, the language of the candidates will become more moderate. It’s not the same to talk for voters in an internal party campaign that to talk for the general public ahead of a general election,” he said.

The bonds between U.S. and Mexico are so close and deep-rooted that they would be almost impossible to break without a major economic crisis, he said.