EghtesadOnline: Given all the tension U.S. President Donald Trump has fomented with Mexico over the border wall and immigration, it was surprising to hear the country’s foreign minister say ties are better than they’ve been for a long time.
“That’s a fact of life,” Luis Videgaray said at a news conference Friday in Mexico City with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, after he said the relationship “is closer than it was with previous administrations.” He gave credit to Tillerson, standing just to his left: “I want to highlight the leadership of Secretary Tillerson has been instrumental to achieving this to bringing the countries closer.”
Videgaray, who has regularly tried to smooth over differences between the U.S. and Mexico, may have simply been excelling in his role as his nation’s top diplomat. His sentiment seemed to defy the common view that relations between the neighbors -- still embroiled in talks over how to revamp their free trade agreement -- haven’t been this bad for years. Trump has repeatedly portrayed undocumented migrants, most of whom are from Mexico and Central America, as an existential threat to U.S. security and continues to insist that Mexico will pay for a border wall he has promised to build, according to Bloomberg.
Videgaray said Mexico had principles it wouldn’t betray but highlighted the “close communication” it’s had with the Trump administration. Freeland was similarly effusive in her praise of the man she simply refers to as “Rex.”
“He is a tremendous friend and partner for Canada and an incredibly important voice in maintaining the rules-based international order and it’s been a real privilege for me to work with him,” Freeland said.
The exchanges also highlighted the role that Tillerson, a year into the job, has sought to create for himself in the Trump administration. While tending to his relationship with the president, he often strikes a more moderate tone than Trump, seeking to smooth out his rough edges on issues such as immigration and trade.
Of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump has called “the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere,” Tillerson says only that it needs to be “modernized.” In a speech yesterday in Austin, Texas, he went further, saying he understands “how important NAFTA is for our economy and that of the continent.”
And while Trump has pushed to tighten immigration restrictions, Tillerson said the president wants to help clarify a system of tangled, outdated laws.
“We still value immigrants,” said Tillerson, who flies to Panama and Argentina later on Friday. “That’s what the president is asking -- I want to know how this person who is coming to our country will bring value to our country.”