President López Obrador has come under fire from politicians, analysts and others for his decision not to attend the G20 leaders’ summit in Osaka, Japan, later this month.
The president announced yesterday that he won’t travel to Japan because he doesn’t want to be drawn into a “direct confrontation” between the United States and China.
“. . . They’re probably going to deal with the issues of the trade war, with which I don’t agree,” López Obrador said.
He previously indicated that he was too busy attending to national matters to travel abroad and frequently quips that “the best foreign policy is domestic policy.”
Since taking office on December 1, López Obrador hasn’t traveled outside Mexico at all whereas his predecessor, Enrique Peña Nieto, went on 10 international trips in his first six months as president.
López Obrador told reporters yesterday that his “modest contribution” to the summit will be a letter about the problems of inequality in the world.
“That’s what [international] meetings should be for, they’re the meetings that are needed . . . [inequality] is what causes the deterioration of the environment, it’s what causes migration, it’s what causes insecurity and violence, this is the issue that has to be dealt with . . .” López Obrador said.
He explained that Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard and Finance Secretary Carlos Urzúa will represent Mexico at the G20 summit on June 28 and 29.
Politicians, analysts and other commentators contend that López Obrador’s absence will be a lost opportunity to build support for Mexico just as President Donald Trump is threatening to impose new, incrementally increasing tariffs to pressure the country to do more to stop flows of undocumented migrants across the northern border.
Among lawmakers that criticized the president’s decision was Laura Rojas, a federal National Action Party deputy and member of the lower house’s international relations committee.
“In the middle of an attack on Mexico by Trump, the president decides not to go to the G20, a space that he could take advantage of to speak with him in person and build support from other leaders for our country. Mexico will pay the costs of AMLO’s lack of international vision,” she wrote on Twitter.
Margarita Zavala, a former first lady and independent presidential candidate, said succinctly: “Mr. President, you should go. These are not times to fail in foreign policy.”
León Krauze, a columnist for El Universal and The Washington Post, also took to Twitter to take aim at López Obrador’s decision to absent himself from the annual meeting that brings together the leaders of the world’s largest economies.
“How does this help Mexico’s interests? Does the president really think that vanishing from the international stage builds better conditions for the country?” he wrote.
“In his hour of greatest diplomatic need, one in which Mexico needs to persuade the big actors of the world to support the country in the face of Trump, and to help strengthen Central America, AMLO delegates the responsibility of going to the G20. He’s the president of Mexico. Not Ebrard. Not Urzúa.”
Jorge Guajardo, a former Mexican ambassador to China and consul general in Austin, Texas, said “Mexico could take advantage of its presence in the G20 to obtain the support of the world in the face of Trump’s onslaught.”
López Obrador “would easily achieve it,” he claimed. “However, staying away allows Trump to continue attacking [Mexico] . . . in the international arena. Mexico will become irrelevant.”
Others took a more humorous approach to assessing López Obrador’s decision.
“Don’t forget to quote [former president] Benito Juárez, president. Your little letter will surely fascinate the G20 heads of state,” said Puebla lawyer Javier Lozano.
Gabriel Quadri, a minor party candidate in the 2012 presidential election, wrote on Twitter:
“I insist: it’s a good thing that [the president] isn’t going to the G20. He will save us a lot of embarrassment and he will lavish us with a letter that will surely be another entertaining pearl.”
The claim that López Obrador could embarrass Mexico on the international stage is supported by an assessment of his foreign policy knowledge made by María Cristina Rosas, a well-known academic and author of a book about the new North American trade agreement.
“AMLO is not interested in foreign policy. He’s profoundly ignorant of international relations,” she said.
Just before López Obrador announced that he won’t attend the Osaka summit, Rosas declared:
“If he doesn’t go to the G20, the rating agencies will assess us poorly and international companies’ mistrust [of Mexico] will be greater, which would be catastrophic . . .”