Mexico will elect a new president next year. Although he has now at least temporarily delayed withdrawing the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement, continued uncertainty over NAFTA and U.S. President Donald Trump's plans for a border wall are roiling Mexican politics. The outcome may have implications for the nearly five million American jobs that are tied directly to trade with Mexico.
Former Mexico City mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador is one of several figures who have either declared their candidacy or expressed interest. Others include Margarita Zavala, wife of former president Felipe Calderón and Miguel Ángel Mancera, Mexico City's current mayor. Peña Nieto's six-year term ends next year. The constitution bars him from seeking re-election. Mexico's political parties must nominate presidential candidate by March 2018 for the a vote that will take place the following July. The jockeying has already started.
Trump's election has triggered a rise in Mexican nationalism. A populist Mexican leftist who wants to reduce economic dependence on the United States is channeling that nationalism. Though defeated in Mexico's last two elections, López Obrador is leading in numerous polls as Mexico's next presidential cycle approaches. He's riding revulsion over Trump's anti-Mexico rhetoric. López Obrador told Univisiontelevision journalist León Krauze that Mexico should not accept American military assistance currently provided each year under terms of the Merida Initiative.
"I never dreamed in my lifetime of a U.S. president that would be afraid of Mexico, afraid of competition," Juan Carlos Romero Hicks says.Romero Hicks is a member of the Mexican Senate's Foreign Relations Committee. He says Trump has given the left a political gift. Since Trump's victory, Romero Hicks has continued to promote an integrated North American economy. But he said that has not been an easy task since the American election.
"In the U.S. there's notion that is not correct that Mexicans are taking jobs from Americans, that we are a security threat. Building a wall is absurd," he says.
López Obrador is leveraging that feeling. He opposes the 2014 opening of Mexico's oil and gas markets to foreign investors, many in the U.S.– names like Exxon Mobil and Chevron that've already moved in. He wants to import less U.S. corn and gasoline. He believes Mexico should stand up for itself. There is a blueprint of sorts. In 2009, Mexico placed tariffs on certain goods from Oregon and California during a trade dispute. The tariffs were only lifted when the U.S. stopped blocking Mexican trucks from gaining full access to U.S. highways.