German Chancellor Angela Merkel will arrive in Mexico today on her second stop of a three-day Latin America trip with trade and investment set to take center stage in talks with her counterpart, Enrique Peña Nieto.
Analysts, however, believe the opportunity to demonstrate her political muscle to United States President Donald Trump and shore up support on key issues such as climate change, trade and migration ahead of next month’s G-20 leaders summit are of at least equal importance to the German leader.
Merkel will host the July summit in Hamburg.
Tension has intensified between Trump and Merkel after Trump’s controversial decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, which she called “extremely regrettable.”
According to experts she is seeking to build unity among other G-20 nations, including Mexico, in order to make a consolidated stance against Trump.
Given that Mexico has also had well-known differences with the U.S. president it is likely her messages will be favorably received.
Dámaso Morales, the coordinator of the European Studies Center at the National Autonomous University, believes Germany will find a trustworthy partner in Mexico.
Merkel “is isolating [Trump] so that he sees that the whole world is on the same side. Mexico is a reliable ally because it has a history of multilateralism. The message that Angela Merkel gives Mexico is that the world remains open.”
Jacob Kirkegaard, a senior fellow with the Peterson Institute for International Economics, concurs, telling Bloomberg, “She’s essentially trying to arrive at a 19-1 outcome on these issues.”
The German government has downplayed any suggestion that the trip represents some kind of provocation to the U.S. or challenge to its long established hegemony in the region.
Germany’s ambassador in Mexico, Viktor Elbling, said Merkel’s visit was “a very clear sign of solidarity towards Mexico that demonstrates how important it is [for Germany].”
Germany is Mexico’s biggest trading partner in Europe — overtaking Spain — and fifth overall with two-way trade between the exceeding US $17.8 billion in 2016, while Mexico is Germany’s largest trade partner in Latin America.
There are around 1,900 German companies operating in Mexico such as Siemens, BMW and Volkswagen, generating 120,000 jobs.
At a time when Mexico is looking to diversify its export markets and given the chancellor’s influence in Europe, the visit might provide an opportunity to move towards a modernization of its free trade agreement with the European Union (EU), implemented in 2000.
Just 5% of Mexican exports reach Europe compared with 70% to the U.S.
Soledad Loaeza, a researcher at the College of Mexico, believes that Merkel “will do her part to accelerate” a renegotiation of the EU agreement.
Loaeza added, “Merkel [visiting] this country compensates in a certain way for the mistreatment we have suffered from the North American government, which above all has been very rude.”
Merkel’s visit coincides with the conclusion of the Mexico-Germany Dual Year, which has celebrated and promoted the relationship between the two countries.
She will be guest of honor tonight at a show in Mexico City that will close the Pop-Up Festival, a celebration of German business, culture and technology.
“The contrast between Germany’s Tour and Donald Trump’s Wall is striking and probably intentional: mobility rather than stasis, mingling not division, soft power instead of hard barriers,” wrote Brian Hanrahan today in Handelsblatt, a German business publication.
To many Mexicans, he wrote, Germany and Merkel represent “a new beacon of the liberal, free-trade global order, against a rude and reckless United States,” and it makes sense to work more closely.
Mexico, the U.S. and Canada used to be known as the Three Amigos. These days, Mexico has a new Amiga.