by Rocio Mondragon Reyes
On Wednesday, April 12, 2017, the Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS) hosted an event in Riggs Library featuring Mexican Ambassador Gerónimo Gutiérrez. Recently appointed México’s ambassador to the United States, this was Ambassador Gutiérrez’s first address to a public audience. His talk centered on the current state of bilateral relations between the United States and México.
The evening began with general remarks about the development of the bilateral relationship in the past century, with special attention given to the implementation of NAFTA since 1994. The remarks and the Q&A session that followed touched on topics ranging from economic development, combatting organized crime, and immigration concerns. The conversation also touched on remarks made by U.S. President, Donald Trump, particularly in regards to how these comments were shaping México’s view of the current state of the bilateral relationship. Gutiérrez mentioned that, as he had stated to media during his confirmation process, the commentary by President Trump does not put the relationship in a crisis, but nonetheless creates a “critical juncture in the relationship.” Gutiérrez made sure to address both the challenges and opportunities that U.S.-Mexico bilateral relations face.
In regards to the challenges, Gutiérrez emphasized the need for both countries to be better informed about each other. For example, he noted how México is more intimately known in some regions of the United States than in others. For historical and geographical reasons, populations in border states are more exposed to México and its people. The same is true for certain populations in México, where some regions are more exposed to the United States than others. For Gutiérrez, increasing understanding between both countries is critically important, particularly in regards to political matters such as the re-negotiation of NAFTA. Such bilateral decisions make it increasingly important to inform American and Mexican audiences about the degree of interdependence between both countries’ economies, according to Gutiérrez.
Gutiérrez emphasized the need to avoid propelling Anti-American and Anti-Mexican sentiments within their respective countries. He also mentioned the role the media has in informing people properly and in furthering the relationship between the two countries by increasing interpersonal connections. Lastly, he mentioned the importance of timing. Noting that México’s presidential elections take place next year at the same time as U.S. midterm elections, the Ambassador reiterated that it is important to begin negotiations regarding NAFTA and other issues sooner rather than later.
In regards to the opportunities for the future of the relationship, Gutiérrez emphasized Mexico’s recent energy sector reform that opened sector to further investment and trade. He acknowledged the need to renegotiate NAFTA; however, he sees this need as due to technological changes that have transformed manufacturing practices. The Ambassador further explained that the two countries, because of changes in technology, should be seen as joint producers rather than as just trading partners and noted the rich opportunities to be found in furthering the unification of North America as trade region.
Overall, the pressures to re-negotiate NAFTA are indicative of the need to revise and update the structures framing the bilateral relationship between the United States and México. As neighboring states, their continued interaction is inevitable. However, this relationship cannot be taken for granted and requires constant dialogue. Increased interaction and understanding between the populations of both countries is particularly important, given their role in electing the leadership of the United States and Mexico.