shutterstock_351999869 copy

U.S./Mexico: A Strategic Partnership

Over the past few days, the news story on everyone’s mind is former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn’s resignation and the extent of his contact with Russian officials. It’s become the classic D.C. question of “what did you know and when?” and so far we have few concrete answers. This appears to only be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Russian meddling in U.S. affairs, so we’ll surely be hearing quite a bit more on this developing story in the coming days and weeks.

This focus on Russia (as well as on China and Netanyahu’s DC visit) means that Mexico is taking a backseat in the daily headlines. However, the bilateral relationship continues moving forward—albeit with less high-wire political drama than during the past few weeks—through discussions on trade, energy, and security ties. If you are looking for clear-eyed analysis on these and other issues, I highly recommend browsing White & Case’s many excellent publications. Of particular interest is our latest trade alert, which serves a primer on how to navigate a new policy landscape.

As for how the political changes will affect the U.S.-Mexico relationship, I recently spoke with MSNB’s Kate Snow regarding the effects’ from Donald Trump’s latest executive orders. Yet, the bilateral relationship may now be poised for improvements, as U.S. Cabinet secretaries gain more autonomy in the wake of Flynn’s resignation. These secretaries have generally taken a more collaborative approach toward Mexico, with Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently meeting with Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray to discuss the two countries’ “strong relationship and shared values” and Secretary of Defense James Mattis speaking on the phone with his Mexican defense counterparts. Next up, Kelly and Tillerson have announced that they will travel to Mexico City together on February 23 to continue these conversations.

However, during their trip to Mexico, Tillerson and Kelly will also get an earful on Mexicans’ lingering hard feelings toward President Trump. In recent days, a group of Mexican senators have been working on a bill to bar their government from paying for a U.S. border wall (in the highly unlikely chance that it would like to do so) and tens of thousands of Mexican protestors took to the streets this past Sunday to demand respect and vent their anger against Trump. According to a recent poll, almost 50 percent of Mexicans now see the bilateral relationship as ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’ compared to 11 percent last year, which—as I discussed with Bloomberg Markets—could have a lasting effect on cross-border cooperation.

This past Monday, I penned an op-ed with my ambassadorial predecessors and successors to highlight just how critical the bilateral relationship is for our regional economies, security, and energy sectors. (You can read the edited Washington Post version here, the complete version here, or the Spanish language version here.) Collectively, my colleagues and I have worked on the frontline of this evolving bilateral relationship for twenty-six years and, while there will always be challenges, we could not agree more that it is in the United States’ interest to not just maintain Mexico as a strategic partner but to continuously seek to broaden our dynamic ties.

Lastly, congratulations to White & Case for starting 2017 off with an awards bang. The firm swept January’s accolades, winning multiple honors for project finance in Latin Americaranking #1 for M&A deal value globally, and having five White & Case deals honored as the project finance international deals of the year.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on the U.S.-Mexico relationship or what regional trends and events you are watching most closely. You can reach me on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

Sincerely,

Antonio Garza