Texas leaders calculating relationship with Mexico’s new president


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Leaders in the Lone Star State are considering how Mexico’s presidential election over the weekend will affect the relationship between the state and its neighbor to the south.

Mexican nationals voted populist Andrés Manuel López Obrador as president, amid unpopularity with the country’s right-wing political party that has held power for roughly 80 years. López Obrador unofficially won 53 percent of the vote in the four-way race with support from his relatively new party, Morena. As of press time, the vote had yet to be confirmed by elections administrators.

“It does represent a dramatic shift,” said Kenneth Greene, associate professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin. In an interview from Mexico City, where he is researching Mexico’s elections, Greene said it would be difficult to determine the full effect of the election on Texas business and trade until the new leader takes office.

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – JULY 01: President elect of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaks during the celebration event, at the end of the Mexico 2018 Presidential Election on July 1, 2018 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Pedro Mera/Getty Images)

“Texas is certainly the most important single state for economic relations with Mexico,” Greene said. “I think a fair amount will have to do with Gov. Abbott’s ability to influence the Trump administration when it comes to NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) negotiations.”

“Mexico is clearly an extremely important country for the U.S., it certainly always has been and will be, for trade relationships, because of security cooperation issues or lack thereof, because of migration or immigration issues,” Greene added. “All of those issues will continue to the extent that government policy can nudge them slightly one way or another.”

Texas Association of Business chief executive officer Jeff Moseley said the group is working to set up meetings with López Obrador’s transition team, to cement the partnerships.

“Almost 400,000 Texans work because of trade with Mexico,” Moseley said. He explained he was keeping a watchful eye on NAFTA negotiations and trade tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump and his administration, and by other countries in return.

“One of the immediate challenges that Texans face is a series of tariffs that are being announced in retaliation to the United States, and Texas is significantly going to be the most profoundly hit by these retaliatory tariffs,” Moseley stated.

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Tomball, who chairs the House committee on homeland security and sits on the foreign affairs committee said he hoped tensions between the United States and Mexico would “not get worse.”

“I’m looking at Mexican cooperation when it comes to drug cartels and potential terrorists, and how we can work with Mexico to not only secure our southern border, but also Mexico’s southern border,” McCaul said Monday. He said he would like to see both countries work together to fortify the trade agreement.

“I think it’s going to be very important that [Trump and López Obrador] not shred a document that has been very productive for the state of Texas… I hope that relationship will not in any ways compromise NAFTA,” McCaul shared.

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