Last month we wrote about "Mexico's Fiery, Trump-Like Populist Who Looks Increasingly Likely To Win The Presidency In 2018." As we noted before, Pena Nieto’s PRI party, which has held power for most of Mexico’s modern history, has seen its popularity eroded in recent months due to a series of corruption scandals, surging gasoline prices and a perception among Mexican voters that Pena Nieto himself has been too soft in combatting an aggressive Trump Presidency.
But, the growing populist sentiment that is sweeping Mexico and forcing Pena Nieto's ratings to all-time lows, is the same sentiment that has vaulted Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to the top of the list of likely presidential candidates to be elected in 2018. Staying true to his reputation, Lopez Obrador spent the better part of today blasting the Trump administration in a series of interviews.
In fact, speaking at the Washington Press Club earlier, Lopez Obrador said that the poor distribution of income and bad tax policies, not immigrants, were the cause of America's economic distress. Per The Hill:
"President Trump's approach of blaming migrants for the problems of the United States has been excessive. We will not allow that, you can't implement a campaign of hate against Mexicans because that is neofascism," he said.
Lopez Obrador was in town to present a complaint against Trump's executive orders on immigration at the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
"We are denouncing that Secretary [of Homeland Security John] Kelly's executive measures affect not only Mexicans, but migrants from all over the world," said Netzaí Sandoval, the lawyer who wrote the claim.
Meanwhile, Lopez Obrador vowed to take a more "firm" approach in re-negotiating the NAFTA free trade agreement with the Trump administration saying that while Nafta “didn’t hurt” Mexico's economy “it is also not our salvation." That said, he went on to warn that any cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico would be short lived if the Trump administration didn't change it's rhetoric on migrants.
Lopez Obrador said that once in power, he would change the nature of the bilateral relationship "without disrespecting anyone, but with firmness."
He said it is "very probable" that he will win the upcoming election, scheduled for July 2018.
"We will convince the government of the United States and Trump that the best thing is a good deal, an understanding based on cooperation for development," he said.
But Lopez Obrador warned the overlap between his administration and Trump's would be short-lived if the Trump administration did not change its tune on migrants.
As we pointed out earlier this morning, Peter Navarro, Trump's top trade advisor, seemingly took a slightly less combative stance on NAFTA and was quoted by Bloomberg as saying he wants the US, Canada and Mexico to form a trade "powerhouse", supposedly one which is quite different from the existing "NAFTA" trade arrangement.
The Trump administration is re-examining a critical component of the free trade pact: the rules of origin, which dictate what percentage of a product must be manufactured in the U.S. for it to carry a Made in America label, Navarro said.
“We have a tremendous opportunity, with Mexico in particular, to use higher rules of origin to develop a mutually beneficial regional powerhouse where workers and manufacturers on both sides of the border will benefit enormously,” said Navarro. “It’s just as much in their interests as it is in our interests to increase the rules of origin.”
For example, under the current agreement, 62.5 percent of the total value of cars sold in North America must originate in the U.S., Canada or Mexico to avoid import tariffs. The U.S. wants to raise that threshold, making it harder for parts from other countries to enter the supply chain.
Since the comment appeared less combative than some more aggressive trade-related statements out of the administration, the market took them in stride and sent both the Canadian Loonie and the Mexican Peso to session highs.
Finally, here's is Bloomberg's interview with the so-called 'Trump of Mexico'.