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Mexico’s snub of summit could make country vulnerable to trade disputes

Since taking office last December, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has not left his country. Critics say he is damaging Mexico's image on the world stage. Above, he speaks during the daily morning press briefing in Mexico City on Sept. 5.
Pedro Martin Gonzalez Castillo
/
Getty Images
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said earlier this week he will not attend the Summit of the Americas, which is hosted this year by the United States.

The decision by Mexican President Andrés
Manuel López Obrador to boycott the Summit of the Americas comes after Mexico refused to sanction Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.

The Mexican president’s decision this week to boycott a summit of leaders from the Americas isn’t necessarily a black eye for the Biden administration but the move could impact trade policies between the two countries in the future.

That’s the assessment from Jorge Guajardo, the former Mexican ambassador to China and Consulate General of Mexico in Austin.

López Obrardor said Monday he was boycotting the gathering of Summit of the Americas because of President Joe Biden’s refusal to invite representatives from Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela.

The snub comes as Texas continues to lead the country in the number of unauthorized immigrants apprehended at the border and as Mexico continues to be Texas’ leading trade partner.

The Mexican government said Monday that the country’s foreign affairs secretary will go in López Obrador’s place.

“It's not a big deal for President Biden. It's not a humiliation, it doesn't make the Summit of the Americas fail or anything, but I think it does bring a static to the relationship from [López Obrador],” Guajardo said.

That strain, however limited, could make Mexico appear isolated and vulnerable to trade disputes similar to the Texas-imposed border blockade earlier this year.

In April Gov. Greg Abbott ordered state officers with the Texas Department of Public Safety to inspect tractor-trailers coming to the state from Mexico. The inspections led to days-long delays for goods that would normally be inspected and processed in a matter of hours. Abbott ordered the inspections as a retaliatory response to the Biden administration’s decision to lift a pandemic-era health policy that immediately expels most migrants. (The policy, Title 42, is still in place after a Louisiana-based federal judge blocked its expiration.)

“He cultivates no friends in the U.S. and therefore, there are no political consequences to attacking him or his government the way Governor Abbott did by closing the border,” Guajardo said. “The fact is right now, nobody wants to be the one raising their voice on behalf of [López Obrador].”

In 2021, more than $661 billion in two-way trade passed between the United States and Mexico, according to U.S. Census data analyzed by WorldCity. The majority, about $243 billion, passed through the Laredo customs district. Ports in El Paso accounted for about $85 billion, with ports in Pharr, Eagle Pass and Brownsville also in the top 10. Texas' trade relationship with Mexico helps sustain about 1 million jobs, according to the Texas Economic Development and Tourism office.

The snub from the Mexican president comes just three months after Mexico refused to sanction Russia for its unprovoked attack on Ukraine. Mexico voted in favor of a United Nations resolution condemning the invasion and demanded a withdrawal of Russian troops in Ukraine. But the country’s foreign secretary, Marcelo Ebrard, said in a statement Mexico’s refusal to impose economic sanctions on Russia was in line with decades of foreign policy that promotes a policy of peace and “non-intervention.” Arturo Sarukhan, who served as the Mexican ambassador to the United States under Mexican President Felipe Calderon, said then that López Obrador was “blindly playing with fire.”

With the decision to pass on the summit, Sarukhan said Lopez Obrador just made an “own goal” for his country’s long-term interests.

“López Obrador should realize that for a country like Mexico, not being at the table could entail that it ends up being on the menu, and that Mexican diplomacy, already impacted by Mexico’s inconsistent and disappointing positions regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine, means that the country — both regionally and globally — will continue to punch below its weight in the international arena,” he wrote in an opinion piece for the Brookings Institution.

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Got a tip? Email Julián Aguilar at jaguilar@kera.org.You can follow Julián on Twitter @nachoaguilar.