The Devil Waiting in the Corridor

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Business

by Daniel Nardini

So far, no money has been approved for U.S. President Donald Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall, and so far no work has begun on it. But this is not stopping the Chinese government from quietly stepping in. The conflict between the United States and Mexico is now China’s opportunity. The Chinese government has been pouring billions of dollars into Mexico. One tiny example of this is a Chinese company called Anhui Jianghuai Motors, in cooperation with Mexico’s Giant Motors, is building a car manufacturing plant worth U.S. $212 million in the Mexican state of Hidalgo. This is China’s use of soft power—investments and building infrastructural projects in various countries to gain influence not just economically but also politically. With President Trump virtually hog-tying American companies from doing business in Mexico because of the political disagreements the United States is having with Mexico, China is able to build up a better “partnership” with Mexico as it is doing with countries in Central America.

There are two other things that China is doing here. First, it is trying to break Mexico away from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). For over 20 years, NAFTA has been the power bloc that has guaranteed both the United States and Mexico trading, buying and selling each others’ goods on a scale unknown in North America before. If President Trump tries to walk away from this agreement, and if Mexico will not renegotiate NAFTA, then Mexico can equally walk away from it and then start working out trade deals with China. A major free trade deal with China will mean that the United States will be shut out of the whole process, and that any new free trade deal with Mexico will have to be done on China’s terms. This in turn will weaken America economically, and will mean that China now has a major trading and political ally on America’s doorstep.

The second thing is that as China makes important economic inroads with Mexico, it might also be able to make political inroads with the Mexican government as well. Currently, Mexican President Enrique Pena-Nieto is looking weak and vulnerable to many Mexicans and Mexican politicians as he tries to vainly shore up what relationship he can with the United States. With the growing strains in the U.S.-Mexico relationship, President Pena-Nieto has two choices left open—either try and work with Trump and maybe lose his political support in Mexico, or get tough with the United States and Trump and warn Trump that anything that is not in Mexico’s national interests will force Pena-Nieto to seek better ties with America’s rivals. This is why China is waiting patiently in the corridor for whatever mistakes and missteps the United States makes with regards to Mexico or any country in the Americas.

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