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US Officials Travel to Mexico City as Part of Ongoing Bilateral Talks

On Wednesday, February 22, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly arrived in Mexico City for a series of meetings with senior Mexican officials, including Foreign Relations Minister Luis Videgaray Caso, Secretary of Government Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, and Secretary of National Defense General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, among others.

During the visit, the two began efforts to coordinate on a wide range of bilateral issues, including counterterrorism, border security, and trade. However, prospects for any breakthrough dimmed after the Trump Administration announced new immigration directives that some worry could greatly increase the number of US deportations of undocumented individuals.  Speaking to manufacturers at the White House later that week, President Trump said he warned Secretary Tillerson the trip would be difficult “because we have to be treated fairly by Mexico.”

In a joint statement issued after their meetings, Secretaries Tillerson and Kelly acknowledged that “two strong sovereign countries from time to time will have differences,” but also reaffirmed “close cooperation on economic and commercial issues such as energy, legal migration, security, education exchanges, and people-to-people ties.”  The two sides also agreed they “should seize the opportunity to modernize and strengthen our trade and energy relationship.”  Secretaries Tillerson and Kelly went on to meet with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto as well.

Meanwhile, Senator Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and five other Senate Democrats sent a letter to Secretaries Tillerson and Kelly on February 23 reiterating the importance of the US-Mexico relations and urging they use their visit to forge a strong partnership based on mutual respect. The letter addressed a broad range of issues and emphasized that:

We believe that trade agreements should be updated; strengthening labor and environmental protections would benefit both Americans and Mexicans. Talk of punitive tariffs and threats against investors in Mexico, however, put American jobs tied to exports to Mexico in jeopardy. Ill-informed and arbitrary measures could make it more difficult to create the high-quality domestic jobs, including domestic manufacturing jobs, that are critical to ensuring continued economic recovery that reaches all American communities.

At an event hosted by the Atlantic Council on February 23, former US and Canadian officials urged the Trump Administration consider softening its rhetoric against Mexico and emphasized NAFTA’s economic benefits for the United States.  Carlos Gutierrez, former US Secretary of Commerce, cautioned that the US “cannot humiliate a country to the bargaining table,” suggesting Mexico will have little choice but to respond with combative rhetoric and positions.  Peter MacKay, former Canadian Foreign Minister, echoed those concerns, urging the US develop strong working relationships across all levels of government.

© Copyright 2020 Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLPNational Law Review, Volume VII, Number 61


About this Author

Mayte Gutierrez Public Policy Advisor Attorney Squire Patton Boggs
Public Policy Advisor

Mayte Fedowitz is a member of our International Public Policy Practice and previously served as a Congressional Affairs Advisor and Liaison at the Embassy of Mexico in Washington DC. As a public policy advisor, she assists sovereign governments in understanding US government policies. Her experience in the private and public sector enables her to strategically guide clients in the public policy arena to leverage their relationships and advocate policy objectives.

As Congressional Affairs Liaison, Mayte conducted political analyses and expanded a...

Ludmilla L. Savelieff, Policy Attorney, Squire Patton Boggs Law Firm

Ludmilla Savelieff draws on her experience in both domestic and international policy to assist clients on a variety of regulatory, legislative, and legal matters.

Prior to law school, Ms. Savelieff was the Special Assistant to the Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, where she gained first-hand experience in the daily operations of the Executive Branch. While at the Council, she worked closely with the Chairman and his team of policy advisors in the development and management of significant Administration policies and programs, such as the Major Economies Meetings on Energy Security and Climate Change.