Mexico’s new Secretary of Foreign Affairs, appointed yesterday during cabinet changes announced by President Enrique Peña Nieto, admits he is not a diplomat.
But Luis Videgaray, who served as finance secretary until last fall, said he was ready to learn.
He will have to be given that his main task will be managing relations with Mexico’s principal trade partner at a time when the relationship is a bit strained due to campaign promises by the United States’ president elect to impose measures that negatively impact the Mexican economy.
Videgaray quit his post as Finance Secretary a week after the controversial visit to Mexico by Donald Trump, in which he met with President Enrique Peña Nieto.
It was a visit that Videgaray was rumored to have engineered by using his contacts in the U.S. One of those is said to be Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. Trump himself is a fan of the new Foreign Affairs Secretary. He said on his Twitter account after Videgaray quit that Mexico had lost “a brilliant finance minister and wonderful man.”
“With Luis,” Trump continued, “Mexico and the United States would have made wonderful deals together — where both Mexico and the U.S. would have benefited.”
Perhaps now those deals will be made and an economic disaster averted. Certainly, Videgaray is well regarded in international economic circles, and his appointment yesterday was hailed by many as a good one.
“He’s extraordinary,” said Eduardo Bravo, a Mexican businessman who works for a registered lobbyist in the U.S. that was created to defend Mexico’s interests. “We’ve worked closely with him and are very happy,” Bravo told the news website Fusion. “He’s a man who will inspire a lot of confidence.”
Videgaray, a former investment banker who has a doctorate in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been identified as one of the chief architects of the sweeping reforms introduced by the Peña Nieto administration, and one of the key negotiators behind the unprecedented, multiparty consensus that produced the Pact for Mexico, the agreement that allowed the reforms to proceed.
“He’s the right man at the right time,” said Duncan Wood, director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington. “He’s very well respected in the U.S., not just by Trump and his team but by the investment community. He’s better prepared than anybody else for the task of negotiating and dealing with the incoming administration.”
Wood said the new secretary has two challenges, according to a report yesterday by Bloomberg.
“One is to make sure that NAFTA is a functioning treaty a year from now. The second is to really explain to the Trump administration the importance of the bilateral relationship with Mexico and take it beyond just the economics.”
That assessment would suggest that Videgaray had better begin studying. He hasn’t a lot of time to learn to be a diplomat.