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Mexico braces itself for Trump presidency as wall starts to go up

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By Robert Hackwill
Mexico braces itself for Trump presidency as wall starts to go up

President Donald Trump has promised more concrete and razor wire on the US-Mexico border. He wants to physically isolate the two countries, by extending walls like the one in Ciudad Jaurez, built between 2007 and 2010, under the Bush and Obama mandates.

Trump is doing this, he says, in the name of security, and he appears determined. His latest tweet on the matter was on January 24th.

Get set for a bout of arm-wrestling in which the US has the wood on Mexico. Trump wasted no time after meeting Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in August, when he was still just a hopeful candidate, in declaring he would build a wall between the US and its southern neighbour, which is economically reliant on the US and vulnerable.

In March 2015 Trump launched an incendiary slogan that would help get him into the White House.

“I will build a great, great wall on our southern border and I will have Mexico pay for that wall, mark my words,” he said to cheers from supporters.

Trump is counting on getting Mexico to pay indirectly, by witholding some or all of the some 23 billion euros that Mexican emigrants send south every year to their families who stayed behind.

He also wants to renegotiate the NAFTA free trade deal that accounts for bilateral trade worth 494 billion euros a year. Eighty percent of Mexico’s exports go to the USA.

On Sunday Trump had barely been inaugurated before he added some pressure on the Mexicans, indicating things were coming to a head.

“We’re going to start renegotiating on NAFTA, on immigration, and on security at the border. And Mexico has been terrific, actually terrific. And the president has been really very amazing. And I think we’re going to have a very good result for Mexico, for the United States, and for everybody involved,” he claimed.

The meaning of that message was heard loud and clear by Mexico’s Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray. Not exactly a declaration of war, but not friendly either.

“We will not accept any renegotiation of the free trade agreement. There is always the possibility of abandoning the treaty, and then governing the commerce between the United States and Mexico with the rules established by the World Trade Organization,” he said.

Mexico may be South America’s second economic power after Brazil, but it cannot ignore the importance of the North American market, even if it has made strides in developing other foreign partners.