Is the United States’ new travel warning about Mexico — in which some popular tourist destinations have shown up for the first time — linked to the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement?
The federal tourism secretary said yesterday he could not rule out the possibility that the updated travel alert was designed to pressure Mexico in the lead-up to the next round of NAFTA talks.
Enrique de la Madrid voiced his concern over the new advisory given that visitors from the United States make up almost 60% of airline arrivals. While he acknowledged that violent crime was a problem in Mexico he also alluded to a possible political motivation.
“There is real data that justifies the reasons for concern about insecurity but in politics, anything goes,” he said in an interview with the newspaper El Universal.
De la Madrid stated that the Mexican government is focused on combating insecurity at the country’s tourist destinations, and sees the U.S. warning as extra incentive to improve.
“. . . We cannot afford to let tourism, one of the most dynamic sectors of the economy, slow down.”
He also said that uncertainty about policy positions that may be adopted by President Donald Trump make Mexico susceptible to a downturn in tourism and consequently Mexico should seek to attract visitors from farther afield.
“We should make it an objective in the short term that Americans don’t represent more than 50% [of foreigners that visit Mexico] because it’s not advisable to be so dependent on one country . . . .”
De la Madrid said he expects that goal will be reached soon.
But U.S. visitor numbers continue to grow. He said in another interview that the numbers were up in the first half of the year despite what he described as an adverse climate generated by the tone of Trump’s statements.
It’s not the first time this week that a cabinet secretary has offered speculative commentary about the U.S. and its NAFTA renegotiation strategy.
After United States President Donald Trump said “we’ll end up probably terminating NAFTA at some point” and “personally, I don’t think we can make a deal . . .” at a rally in Arizona on Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Luis Videgaray called Trump’s expressions of pessimism a “negotiating strategy.”
Trump’s comments went beyond the hardline stance the U.S. adopted in the first round of NAFTA renegotiation talks that started last week in Washington and concluded Sunday.