Trump Government Moves to Stabilize Relations with Mexico by Retaining Ambassador

By Navarro, Carlos | SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico, August 9, 2017 | Go to article overview

Trump Government Moves to Stabilize Relations with Mexico by Retaining Ambassador


Navarro, Carlos, SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico


President Donald Trump's hard-line stance on immigration, including a proposal to extend a barrier across the US southern border, and his administration's protectionist policies have contributed to very uneasy relations with Mexico. The Trump administration, however, recently took a step toward stabilizing relations by deciding to keep Roberta Jacobson as US ambassador to Mexico. Jacobson, who was appointed to the position by former US President Barack Obama, is a veteran Latin American expert who has spent more than 30 years in the State Department under two Democratic and four Republican administrations. "In that time, she's won the respect of Mexico's leaders and become a trusted interlocutor with Washington," said Bloomberg news service.

The decision to retain Jacobson comes at a crucial time. Mexico, the US, and Canada are preparing to begin talks on reforming the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on Aug. 16. Jacobson has staunchly defended the agreement, pointing out that NAFTA has brought "benefits to all three nations."

The Trump government is expected to put forth proposals that would change the formula for local content as one of the steps to protect jobs in the US. Jacobson sees an opportunity to enhance the agreement to benefit all three countries, including the inclusion of energy in a renegotiated treaty. "North America has what it takes to become a global energy power, with the capacity to bring energy to other regions," she said

A voice of reason

Additionally, Jacobson has said that NAFTA should be modernized to include electronic commerce and to strengthen protection of intellectual property. "It's not just a matter of more integration, but of building a more intelligent integration," she said at a forum in May. "We have not taken care of people who have lost their jobs or who are at risk of losing them."

Trump's decision to retain Jacobson came with little fanfare, and there was no official reaction from Mexico. However, Jacobson is extremely well liked in Mexico, as evidenced by the statements from the Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores (SRE) when the US Senate finally confirmed Jacobson a year after Obama nominated her. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) had held up the nomination because of Jacobson's role in easing US policies toward Cuba.

"The government of Mexico is pleased with the confirmation of Roberta Jacobson as US ambassador to Mexico," the SRE said in a statement on April 28, 2016. "Her ratification demonstrates the importance of our bilateral relationship."

The SRE announcement went on to tout Jacobson's strong experience as a diplomat, including her work on Latin American affairs. "Ambassador Jacobson will give a new boost to our bilateral connections and also contribute to [strengthening] the institutional framework, which will give us a certain and solid foundation."

While Jacobson has not said anything directly to contradict Trump's hard-line immigration stance, she has often served as a conciliatory figure. "I have said it before and I will say it again: The United States could not be more fortunate to have Mexico as a neighbor," Jacobson noted in a speech at a US Independence Day celebration at her residence in July.

Still, Jacobson is aware of the tensions between the two countries. Earlier, she acknowledged that the US-Mexico relationship had "gone through a difficult period over the past several months."

Controversial exchanges

Jacobson's statements are a stark contrast to Trump's comments during the electoral campaign and during his six months as president. In his short time in office, Trump appears to have gone out of his way to alienate Mexico, and especially President Enrique Pena Nieto.

A minor controversy arose in late July, when Trump erroneously stated that Pena Nieto had called him to compliment him on US immigration policies.

"As you know, the border was a tremendous problem and they're close to 80% stoppage," Trump said on July 31. …

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