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Is Mexico Turning to China in Lieu of the United States?

Presidents Peña Nieto and Xi at the ninth BRICS Summit

Presidents Peña Nieto and Xi. (Image: Presidencia de México)

September 11, 2017

Are China and Mexico getting closer together? It sure looks that way. And why not? With U.S. President Donald Trump threatening to end the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), build a wall on the southern border, and deport thousands of migrants who came as children from Mexico to the United States, the reliability of the United States as a long-term partner is being openly debated in Mexico. 

That’s a problem for a country as economically intertwined with the United States as Mexico, exporting more than eight of every 10 dollars to the United States while importing a similar percentage. Indeed, since 1994 NAFTA has been the glue that has both strengthened and expanded the economic partnership while also supporting broader cooperation in security matters and underwriting Mexico’s democratic transition at the turn of the century. 

Nonetheless, as the United States pulls back, Mexico is not without options. During the November 2016 APEC leaders’ meetings in Peru, in fact, President Enrique Pena Nieto made clear that, while the United States would remain the logical and preferred economic partner for Mexico, his government would look to explore additional options to the extent it may become necessary. That time may now have arrived.

From September 4-6, 2017, Pena Nieto was in Xiamen participating in the Dialogue of Emerging Economies on the margins of the 9th BRICS summit, meeting directly with President Xi on September 4.  This was his fourth trip to China, an extraordinary number of visits for a head of state elected in 2012, and their seventh meeting overall. (Xi has traveled to Mexico once; other meetings were in third countries.) In addition, meetings of cabinet ministers and various trade delegations have become almost routine….

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