The Cable

Seven Bargaining Chips Mexico Has in Negotiations With Trump

The art of the deal goes both ways.

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Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto was slated head to Washington next week to meet with President Donald Trump to talk about trade, security, and the border. On Wednesday, Donald Trump signed an executive order to the build the wall along the border he promised throughout the campaign, just as Mexico’s foreign minister came to town to meet with team Trump. Now some in Mexico suspect the meeting might not happen.

But if it does, Peña Nieto will be going into the meeting armed with more leverage than Trump might realize. Here are seven bargaining chips Nieto can bring to the table for what is sure to be, if nothing else, an interesting meeting.

  • American jobs. Hey, those are Trump’s favorite. Roughly 6 million jobs in the United States depend on trade with Mexico. This may have something to do with the fact that Mexico buys more American goods than all of the BRIC countries — Brazil, Russia, India, and China –combined.
  • U.S. growth. It is difficult to say for certain how much Mexican immigrant labor contributes to the U.S. GDP, but, whether you take the Center for Immigrant Studies 2014 estimate of 1.93 percent or the Business Insider 2012 calculation of 4 percent, the amount appears to be bigger than zero. And new research released last year found that immigrants aren’t, in fact, stealing American jobs.
  • Trade more generally. Mexico is the United States’ third-largest trade partner, accounting for $1.5 billion in bilateral trade across its un-walled border on any given day, according to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico.
  • Avocadoes. Demand is quickly outstripping the pace of supply for what’s become “America’s favorite fruit.” Some 80 percent of the United States’ avocados come from Mexico — the world’s largest producer of the creamy green fruit — according to a study by the Atlantic Council think tank. Some avocado shipments have already stopped at the U.S. border now that Trump has taken office. But with the Super Bowl around the corner, Trump’s constituents might not appreciate their guacamole bowls going empty if his talks with Nieto go south.
  • Security. Mexico has already repeatedly made very clear that it has no intention of reimbursing the United States for Trump’s pet pledge, the wall on the border. But Mexico does spend billions in security — which Peña Nieto could argue would need to be spent elsewhere in the face of, to use Trump’s parlance, a bad deal.
  • Tourism. It’s a booming business here at home, and Mexico is a big part of that; more international tourists spend their money in the United States than any other country in the world. In 2013 alone, per the State Department, 14 million Mexican tourists visited the United States, spending an estimated $10.5 billion in the process. Mexico is also the United States’ number-one tourist destination.

Photo credit: RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images

Robbie Gramer is a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy. @robbiegramer

Emily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy covering ambassadorial and diplomatic affairs in Washington. @emilyctamkin

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