The United States government is urging Mexico to allow the reopening of certain factories that were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The supply chain for defense manufacturers in the United States, especially those in the aircraft sector, has been disrupted because the Mexican government didn’t classify factories in the aerospace and defense sectors as essential when it declared a health emergency at the end of March.
Ellen Lord, U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, told reporters at the Pentagon on Monday that she had discussed the problem with U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Christopher Landau.
She also said that she was planning to write Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard to ask that he “help reopen international suppliers” in Mexico.
“These companies are especially important for our U.S. airframe production,” Lord said. “Mexico right now is somewhat problematical for us but we’re working through our embassy.”
Among the companies that have factories in Mexico and supply aerospace products to the United States are General Electric, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin and Eurocopter.
Aerospace exports from Mexico have increased exponentially over the last 15 years from US $1.3 billion in 2004 to $9.6 billion in 2019, according to the Mexican Federation of Aerospace Industries (FEMIA).
Luis Lizcano, the federation’s general director, told the website Defense News that Mexico is in the top 10 overseas suppliers to the U.S. aerospace and defense sector. A broad range of products including avionics, landing gear and fuselages are manufactured here, he said.
Lizcano said that FEMIA is arguing publicly that the government should classify Mexico’s aerospace and defense sector as essential to bring it into line with the same industries in the United States and Canada.
“What we’re asking is that we standardize in this sector because we’re going to break with supply chains … for commercial and defense aircraft,” he said.
For his part, Ambassador Landau said in a Twitter post on Tuesday that he is doing all he can “to save” the decades-old supply chains between Mexico, the United States and Canada.
“It’s possible and essential to look after the health of workers without destroying those chains. The economic integration of North America requires coordination,” he wrote.
His post triggered a critical response from some Twitter users, prompting Landau to defend it in a series of additional tweets.
“Human life must be protected without destroying the economy. That’s the conversation we need [to have]. There is risk everywhere but we don’t all stay at home out of fear that we’re going to crash our cars. Economic destruction also threatens health,” Landau said in one tweet.
“Of course health comes first but I think that it’s shortsighted to suggest the economic effects don’t matter,” he wrote.
“We have to protect [people’s] health without destroying the economy. It’s not impossible. … I’m here to look for win-win solutions. On both sides of the border, investment = employment = prosperity.”
Among the Twitter users who criticized the ambassador’s suggestion that factory workers should return to their jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic was the novelist and journalist Francisco Goldman.
“Ambassador MAGA [Make America Great Again], shame on you,” he tweeted to Landau.