Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Mexico’s Revenge on Trump - and His Supporters

While Donald Trump's attacks on Hispanics and non-whites in general has played well with the most most ignorant - evangelical Christians are the least educated of any religious group in America - and racist/xenophobic elements of his base, the economic results could prove catastrophic if Mexico decides to exact revenge against Trump's America.  Already, talk of Mexico shifting its agricultural purchases to Argentina and Brazil has Mid-West farmers sweating bullets at the prospect of severe economic and financial damage.  Indeed, the repeal of NAFTA, one of Trump's favorite whipping boys, does not play well in these farming states. But Mexico's revenge could prove even more damaging.  In addition to Mexican intelligence services ending their cooperation with their American counterparts - something that could increase illegal immigration into America - Mexico could tilt toward China as its new found favorite trading partner.  Needless to say, the ignorant, loud mouthed, bullying, narcissist in the White House has never thought of these types of  consequences.  A long piece in The Atlantic looks at the Mexican revenge Trump may be setting into motion. Here are highlights:
When donald trump first made sport of thumping Mexico—when he accused America’s neighbor of exporting rapists and “bad hombres,” when he deemed the country such a threat that it should be contained by a wall and so clueless that it could be suckered into paying for its own encasement—its president responded with strange equilibrium. 

Since then, the Mexican political elite has begun to ponder retaliatory measures that would reassert the country’s dignity, and perhaps even cause the Trump administration to reverse its hostile course. With a presidential election in just over a year—and Peña Nieto prevented by term limits from running again—vehement responses to Trump are considered an electoral necessity. Memos outlining policies that could wound the United States have begun flying around Mexico City. These show that Trump has committed the bully’s error of underestimating the target of his gibes. As it turns out, Mexico could hurt the United States very badly.
The Mexico–U.S. border is long, but the history of close cooperation across it is short. As recently as the 1980s, the countries barely contained their feelings of mutual contempt. Mexico didn’t care for the United States’ anticommunist policy in Central America, especially its support of Nicaraguan rebels. In 1983, President Miguel de la Madrid obliquely warned the Reagan administration against “shows of force which threaten to touch off a conflagration.” 
The grandiose promise of trade is that it binds countries together, breeding peace and cooperation. This is a risible overstatement when applied generally to the world. But in the case of the countries separated by the Rio Grande, it has proved wondrously true. A generation after the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the United States and Mexico couldn’t be more interdependent. Anti-Americanism, once a staple of Mexican politics, has largely faded. The flow of migrants from Mexico to the U.S. has, more or less, abated. Economic ties have fostered greater intimacy between intelligence services and security agencies, which are today deeply enmeshed in each other’s business. 
But the Trump administration has come dangerously close to trashing the relationship—and, in the process, unleashing a terrifying new reality.
The Chinese invested heavily in places like Peru, Brazil, and Venezuela, discreetly flexing soft power as they funded new roads, refineries, and railways. From 2000 to 2013, China’s bilateral trade with Latin America increased by 2,300 percent, according to one calculation. A raft of recently inked deals forms the architecture for China to double its annual trade with the region, to $500 billion, by the middle of the next decade. Mexico, however, has remained a grand exception to this grand strategy. 
Mexico also happens to be the one spot in Latin America where the United States would respond with alarm to a heavy Chinese presence.
That sort of alarm is just the thing some Mexicans would now like to provoke. What Mexican analysts have called the “China card”—a threat to align with America’s greatest competitor—is an extreme retaliatory option. Former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castañeda told me he considers it an implausible expression of “machismo.” Unfortunately, Trump has elevated machismo to foreign-policy doctrine . . . And while a tighter Chinese–Mexican relationship would fly in the face of recent economic history, Trump may have already set it in motion.
The painful early days of the Trump administration have reminded Mexico of a core economic weakness: The country depends far too heavily on the American market. “Mexico is realizing that it has been overexposed to the U.S., and it’s now trying to hedge its bets,” says Kevin Gallagher, an economist at Boston University who specializes in Latin America. “Any country where 80 percent of exports go to the U.S., it’s a danger.” . . . . The presence of Trump, with his brusque talk of tariffs and promises of economic nationalism, makes that an urgent task.
Until recently, a Mexican–Chinese rapprochement would have been unthinkable. . . . . But China has played the long game, and its patience has proved farsighted. The reason so many Chinese are ascending to the middle class is that wages have tripled over the past decade. The average hourly wage in Chinese manufacturing is now $3.60. Over that same period of time, hourly manufacturing wages in Mexico have fallen to $2.10. Even taking into account the extraordinary productivity of Chinese factories—not to mention the expense that comes with Mexico’s far greater fidelity to the rules of international trade—Mexico increasingly looks like a sensible place for Chinese firms to set up shop, particularly given its proximity to China’s biggest export market.
Let’s pause to consider the illogic. Trump says that China is a grave threat, both militarily and economically. He has accused China of “rap[ing] our country.” That’s not the way most analysts would put it, but a fairly broad bipartisan consensus holds that China’s expansionism should be contained and its mercantilism checked. Barack Obama’s vaunted “pivot” to Asia tried to keep China’s neighbors from succumbing to its gravitational pull. Thanks to Donald Trump, China is now better positioned to execute the most difficult maneuver in its own, North American pivot—pushing the U.S. and Mexico further apart.
What seems more likely is that relations between the security agencies will slowly decay, as trust between the two countries evaporates and warm feelings give way to tensions.
Trump’s rush toward hard-line immigration policies could yield a grim bonanza of other unintended consequences. Mass deportations of Mexicans could uproot hundreds of thousands and deposit them on the other side of the border, forcing their reintegration into lives they left, many of them long ago. Perhaps the Mexican economy, the 15th-largest in the world, has the capacity to absorb these refugees from Trump’s America. But it’s equally easy to imagine a scenario in which they inundate the labor market. And even that possibility doesn’t begin to capture the likely economic costs of deportation. The Mexican economy would be deprived of the remittances that immigrants send back to their relatives. It’s hard to speak hyperbolically about the importance of these transfers—in 2016, Mexican Americans sent $27 billion back to their Mexican families, more than the value of the crude petroleum Mexico exports annually. 
[W]ith Trump’s angry talk and the Mexican resentment it stirs, the best hope for the persistence of this improved relationship is inertia—the interlocking supply chain that crosses the border and won’t easily pull apart, the agricultural exports that flow in both directions, all the bureaucratic cooperation. Unwinding this relationship would be ugly and painful, a strategic blunder of the highest order, a gift to America’s enemies, a gaping vulnerability for the homeland that Donald Trump professes to protect, a very messy divorce.
The perverse part of me would love to see Mexico shift its agricultural product purchases from Mid-West sources.  The cretins in these states who put Trump in office deserve to suffer greatly.  As for the rise of China-Mexico relations, if it happens, it will be the fault of Der Trumpenführer.

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