By Brett M. Carmel / Senior Managing Director at Seale & Associates
To my clients, colleagues and friends in Mexico,
I wanted to share my perspective to help you better understand the election of Trump and the potential impact for the Mexico-U.S. relationship. Although these are uncertain times, it is important not to become negative, pessimistic or unnecessarily reactive. There is too much mutual respect, family ties, and shared economic interests to allow any single person, even President Trump, to undo our long-standing ties of friendship and business as well as the economic progress we have made since NAFTA. I remain confident in a positive future and so should you.
First, and most importantly, the election of Trump should not be viewed as a validation of his ignorant and hateful words about Mexicans and other minority groups. The American people are by and large not racist, anti-immigrant or anti-Latino. The polls demonstrate this with majority support for comprehensive immigration reform. Mexicans and Latinos (as well as other immigrant groups) are overwhelmingly welcomed and integrated into our society. The United States has a minority fringe that espouses nativist and hateful ideology, but Trump’s support by these ignorant people is not why he ultimately won. More importantly, these ignorant people are not supported by either political party or accepted in the mainstream of society. This election was entirely about changing the direction of the country after eight years of Obama. Although I shared this strong desire for change, I did not support Trump based on his character, rhetoric and lack of qualifications – as well as his foolish and uneducated statements on Mexico, NAFTA, and trade. However, many Americans I know and respect, who are educated and don’t like Trump, voted for him nonetheless because of two reasons: (1) the status quo and continuation of Obama policies for four more years under Clinton was not acceptable; and (2) they have faith in our federalist system of government that constrains the power of the President through divided government, independent judiciary, rule of law, and other forms of checks and balances. Trump won because he was an anti-establishment force of change in an election where the majority of voters wanted change and an outsider to shake up the governing elites in power. Clinton personified the establishment in an anti-establishment election year. Although Clinton was undoubtedly qualified, she was overwhelmingly distrusted by a majority of the American people and her history of scandals – real or imagined – weighed heavily on undecided voters’ minds. Clinton was a flawed candidate against an equally flawed candidate – which effectively canceled out Trump’s negatives. This is obviously an oversimplification – but this is how I think Trump’s election victory should be viewed objectively.
Second, nobody can say for certain what policies will happen under Trump. He is a mercurial man prone to saying many things without any real intent to actually implement. All candidates for political office promise far more than they can actually deliver. He will be no different. He will need to compromise with the business-oriented wing of the Republican party to implement his agenda and craft his legacy. We know Trump is a business man. He has made rational business decisions. He is more than capable of understanding the importance of the Mexican trade and immigration relationship once properly educated about the details. He will undoubtedly need to show his supporters that he made good on his promises the best he could. I suspect we will see a renewed emphasis on border control initiatives, including the promised border wall infrastructure. However, I believe now that the election is over Mexico and the US will be able to effectively coordinate these border initiatives in a manner that will allow both countries to save face and benefit from this large infrastructure investment. With respect to NAFTA, the agreement has required enhancements and updating for some time, but it was politically untouchable for all countries involved. Trump will likely force this issue on the agenda, but again it could very well end up being a blessing in disguise if it unleashes more trade and cross-border investment. Trump knows it would be foolish and counterproductive – especially to his working class supporters – to cause damaging disruptions in the trade and investment flows between our countries. He will define a trade policy that allows him to claim victory to his supporters without jeopardizing this critical relationship. I am certain he will be guided by experienced professionals – both in government and in business – who will help him to make rational and thoughtful policy positions. His rhetoric will not always match his policies, but that should be expected with Trump. While all of this might be wishful thinking on my part, I believe this is a far more likely outcome than the negative and disruptive alternative.
I want each of you to know that I have deep respect and love for Mexico and its people. I do not condone or tolerate Trump’s statements about Mexicans or Mexico. He is wrong. Nevertheless, I have faith in our country, our ideals, our federalist system of government, and my fellow Americans. The United States of America is a great and diverse republic full of unimaginable resources and untapped potential. The founding fathers designed a remarkably robust yet flexible system to withstand the test of time. I am confident it can handle a President Trump. I sincerely hope that President Trump respects the enormity of the power he has been entrusted with by the American people and may he have the wisdom, humility, and strength to lead this country and help create a more prosperous and stable world.