The U.S. media documented the shock of Trump’s victory in Mexico, and uncertainty surrounding what it could mean for trade and immigration between the two countries.
However, many outlets, including The Washington Post, noted that Finance Minister José Antonio Meade emphasized the fact that the country was in a strong economic position:
“It’s important to remember that the functioning of markets has remained orderly,” Meade said. “The result of the election doesn’t imply an immediate impact in the norms that regulate the commerce of goods and services, financial flows or the capacity of people to travel between both countries.”
In the same article, Duncan Wood, Director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington noted:
“I think there will be some tinkering with the U.S. approach to international trade, but I don’t see wholesale reversal of U.S. trade policies. There’s too much at stake here, and any change on that scale would take years and year.”
Policies which hurt Mexico could do equal damage to U.S. business, a Reuters article noted:
“Some business leaders say the U.S and Mexican economies are now so closely integrated it is impossible to take steps against one without damaging the other.”
Several media outlets, including TIME, noted that there was no certainty that Trump would execute policies that had been proposed in his campaign, though a Guardian article commented that if implemented in full, the impact on the Mexican economy of Trump’s trade and immigration policies would be profound.
A Business Insider article noted that establishing auto-manufacturing plants in Mexico could become politically challenging depending on what happens with NAFTA over the next four years:
“However, with a potential structural shift in the US and some global markets toward SUVS, it’s going to increasingly be a money-losing proposition for the carmakers to build small vehicles in the US,” the article said.
A Nasdaq piece reviewed the potential impact of a Trump presidency on different industries. It noted Mr. Trump had promised to slap 35% tariffs on cars imported to the U.S. from Mexico – but also that “President Trump may be very different from candidate Trump” and could potentially moderate his rhetoric.
Julio R. Zamora, a LatAm Equity Strategy Analyst at Citi Research commented that he sees Mexico and Chile most affected due to the fact that they are two of the most trade dependent economies. He added:
“Uncertainty damages business sentiment and investor confidence in, and with respect to, LatAm; Mexico in particular. At best, we look for some modernization of NAFTA, focused on intellectual property, biologics, dumping, labor regulations and trade safeguards. At worst, a re-opening of NAFTA could affect Mexico’s positioning in an integrated North American manufacturing capability. We do not expect a wall, bearing in mind that President Nixon kept the border closed only a few weeks in 1969, decades before the current economic integration took place.”
He echoed journalists’ sentiment that even with Republican control of Congress, it is unclear how much of Trump’s campaign agenda of tax cuts and expansionary fiscal policy, immigration control and trade pact revisions will be enacted.
He commented further on NAFTA, speculating on a more favorable scenario:
“We expect NAFTA will be reviewed. Trade has been a significant part of the electoral conversation and the treaty is +20 years old, so modernization of some topics will not be necessarily all bad. We expect the focus of a renovation to be on intellectual property, biologics, dumping, labor regulations and trade safeguards. In this regard, the fact that Mexico and the US have already broached some of these topics during TPP talks should be a positive.”
“We do not expect a draconian re-evaluation of the commercial relationship between the US and Mexico. We are mindful that President Nixon was able to keep a stringent border inspection regime going for only 3 weeks in 1969, given the outcry of businesses on both sides of the border. That was decades before the integration that has followed NAFTA. We agree with our economics team, which views the fears on this topic to be exaggerated.”
His colleague, Segio Luna, commented in October:
“Reports on the death of North America have been greatly exaggerated. North American (NA) economic conditions are relatively benign. The region has done comparatively well at assimilating the ‘China shock’. Merchandise trade in NA has grown at almost twice its rate of overall economic growth. We highlight that NAFTA-driven merchandise trade appears to be more a bilateral US-Mexico. Our interpretation implies that competition from China led to a rearrangement of regional production into an integrated, “fourth NAFTA country” called manufacturing.”
As early as back in 1993 Paul Krugman had made the point that the “uncomfortable truth about NAFTA” was that for Mexico, the role of other factors on influencing performance should not be overlooked: Mexico has indeed been increasing its share in regional GDP but: (a) the gain is measured in tenths of a percentage point (back to the original Krugman argument); (b) it is essentially bringing Mexico back to the share it had when NAFTA was launched, as this was followed by the “Tequila crisis” whose devaluation led to a substantial drop in the share of Mexico in the region in US dollars; exchange rate fluctuations have been relevant at explaining the weight of Mexico in the region since then; (c) other factors are at play as well: again, the entry of China into the WTO coincided with a drop in Mexico´s share in the regional total, as it implied a sizeable competitive challenge.