Mexico will be electing a new president in six months. Voting will occur days or weeks after we are likely to know if the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) survives ongoing negotiations between President Donald Trump, Mexico and Canada.
Advice for President Trump: if you leave NAFTA the entire American midwest that you carried in November 2016 will lose. In 2016 Mexico ($17 billion) and Canada ($20 billion) bought $37 billion worth of agricultural products from the United States.
No NAFTA? Australia, Argentina and Brazil will step in and skim billions into their pockets while your voters in Iowa go bankrupt.
Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and both North Dakota and South Dakota might very well plunge in to economic chaos. Mexico’s economy and polity will also be affected because a Trump rejection of NAFTA will help the most extreme leftist in North America, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, win the July Mexican presidential election.
López Obrador, also known as AMLO, is even further to the left than Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Kamala Harris.
Mexicans have twice rejected the former mayor of Mexico City for the country’s presidency.
López Obrador demanded a recount of the 2006 presidential election and refused to accept the result when 16,000 voting district recounted votes and cemented his 1% loss to Felipe Calderón. He did not concede; rather, he declared himself the legitimate president.
His peasant followers shut down parts of Mexico City, the capital, for weeks. The move cost Mexicans millions of dollars in business and taxes. He traveled around the southern part of the country appointing “officials” of his presidency.
President Trump’s anti-NAFTA verbiage and calls for a wall on the Mexican border are two significant views that are helping López Obrador run for president in Mexico again — this time under the partisan umbrella of a political party he created to push his candidacy, Morena. (Morena means dark, like in dark skin.)
Last time he was the candidate of the official leftist party, the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD).
For July’s election, the leftist PRD has joined forces with the center right National Action Party (PAN) that won the presidency with Vicente Fox (2000) and Felipe Calderón (2006).
The PRI is running a career bureaucrat.
Considering the violence and corruption which Mexico has seen under PRI President Enrique Peña Nieto, the party shouldn’t have any chance of winning a no-run-off election which will likely be decided by a plurality (just as the Fox election of 2000 was won with 43%).
The drug cartel wars are stacking up bodies throughout Mexico; vigilante groups are forming in towns everywhere, organized to protect themselves from cartels and corrupt government agents and agencies. A new American-style justice system is slowly being implemented with trials by jury, etc.
But the 500-year-old system that Mexico has labored under is slow to change or modernize.
There is confusion in the legal system. There is corruption at the highest levels. There is raging drug cartel chaos.
Now comes Donald Trump who realistically has no clue where Mexico “is” or how much Mexicans and Mexican NAFTA industries contribute to the United States.
The kicker here is that while López Obrador is virulently anti-American, anti-free enterprise and anti-American participation in Mexico’s important oil industry, he is aware that the Mexican auto industry has created an economic miracle in central Mexico with thousands upon thousands of manufacturing jobs that never existed before as well as thousands more jobs in factories that feed the entire North American auto industry.
In fact, even López Obrador knows that the American auto industry has been saved by the nascent Mexican auto industry. The $12 billion worth of exports to Mexico alone from the otherwise depressed state of Michigan is not chopped liver, it’s auto parts that would otherwise not exist without Mexican and Canadian markets to sell to.
López Obrador recognizes the benefits of NAFTA. Unfortunately, it is President Donald Trump who doesn’t recognize NAFTA’s benefits. Any damage Trump does to the trade agreement in coming weeks will be reflected by more votes for López Obrador in Mexico.
Raoul Lowery Contreras is the author of “The Armenian Lobby & U.S. Foreign Policy,” (Berkeley Press 2017); “The Mexican Border: Immigration, War and a Trillion Dollars in Trade,” (Floricanto Press 2016). He formerly wrote for the New American News Service of the New York Times.