Many Mexican businessmen today have a political stance that a few years ago was unthinkable: they want to see Donald Trump re-elected. Things have changed for the owners and directors of companies in the country since 2015, when the then American candidate made Mexico the sandbag to which he threw all his blows. He called the Mexican migrants "rapists," undid the trade agreement that outlined how to do business between the two countries, and promised a border wall to end migration. His rhetoric fueled racist and anti-Latino attacks in the United States. Now, none of this matters as much as the commercial and business certainty that Trump forged for Mexican entrepreneurs in the four years of his administration, particularly in the energy, automotive and manufacturing sectors.
The North American Free Trade Agreement was renegotiated and the new agreement, the TMEC, was signed, under which the promotion of trade and, therefore, the economy is protected. Trump's protectionist discourse is no longer directed at Mexico, but at China, an economy that, as an exporter, competes with Mexico. Meanwhile, his election opponent, Democrat Joe Biden, has launched his own protectionist initiative, which has Mexican corporations on edge.
"The business sector thinks that a re-election of Trump will give him continuity, stability and some predictability for the future," says Lila Abed, political scientist and consultant. Abed, who supports the vote for Biden, claims to have "a very close relationship, very close with the business sector in Mexico," but reserves the names of his clients, owners and managers of some of the largest companies in the country, to who advises on political matters. During this electoral campaign, Abed has also worked with the Confederation of Industrial Chambers (Concamin) as well as with the National Association of Independent Entrepreneurs (ANEI). "What the businessmen think is: 'The TMEC has already passed, the legal regulatory framework has already been established, the rules are already clear,' and they don't want them to be changed," he explains.
With some exceptions, the majority of these Mexican businessmen who support Trump's reelection cannot vote in the elections of the neighboring country and the laws in the United States do not allow contributions or donations from foreigners to electoral campaigns, explains Larry Rubin, representative of the Republican Party in Mexico. "But what they can do, and what businessmen have been doing, is promoting the vote for Trump through their acquaintances, not employees, because yes, although in many cases it is not a violation of the law, no It is very ethical, "says Rubin on the phone from the Mexican capital. Mexico is the country with the highest number of nationals living in the United States with about 35 million Mexicans and Mexican Americans there.
"Many of them do vote and obviously have influence from their family and friends in Mexico," says Rubin, "it is definitely a way to further promote the grassroots and enthuse Latinos in different parts of the United States."
Rubin runs a pro-Trump Mexican WhatsApp chat with 256 members, the maximum number for any group on the app. The forum, to which EL PAÍS had access, includes not only some little-known businessmen, but also journalists, consultants, politicians from the National Action Party and the PRI, employees of Concamin, among others. While not all members are active or openly share the opinions expressed there, conversations often revolve around how to attack Democratic candidates Biden and Kamala Harris on social media. “Why does Kamala hate TMEC?” Asks one user. “Kamala and the Democrats are sold out to the unions,” another responds. "With the fiscal schemes that Donald Trump has established, the Mexican economy will benefit from the American companies that will return to the USA," says another member of the chat.
Users also promote accusing them among their contacts as "communists" and questioning the ethnic origin of Harris, the first black candidate for vice presidency in the country's history. In August, when the American basketball league canceled its games in support of the anti-racist movement Black Lives Matter, a user in the group commented on professional players: "Why don't you go back to Africa?"
THE COUNTRY sought out two of the most important business blocs in Mexico, who refused to comment on the issue since, they assured, they do not take positions or comment on elections in Mexico or abroad.
Fear of biden
"The pocket does not have nationalism," says Ignacio Martínez, an expert economist at UNAM's Laboratory of Commerce, Economics and Business (LACEN). Both Martínez and Abed agree that, in Mexico, the energy, automotive and manufacturing sectors are the that have a greater interest in a re-election of Trump, as well as the aerospace, electronics and telecommunications industries, adds Martínez, which operate as part of global value chains that supply our neighbor to the north.
Biden proposes to take up the “Buy American” initiative enacted by Barack Obama. “What Biden wants is to move the core of these supply chains to the United States. This is where companies based in Mexico or Mexican companies that are related to these segments of the production chain in the United States fear being affected, "explains Martínez Cortés.
On the other hand, Biden also promotes fiscal support to small and medium-sized companies, something that could affect large corporations that operate and sell their Mexican products in the United States, says Martínez Cortés. In his July 10 speech, Biden emphasized: "When the federal government spends taxpayer money, we should use it to buy American products and support American jobs." This, for Mexican companies that employ nationals there and sell traditionally Mexican products, such as tortillas and sauces, or associated with a Latin American culture, is very worrying and could impact their sales.
"This speech makes Trump see as a champion of free trade," says the specialist, "while Trump promotes what I call the 'nationalization of globalization', Biden would be promoting national production through trade protectionism. through fiscal preferences and not through the tariff preference that is already found in the trade agreements that the United States has. So under this aspect, we see a Biden more protectionist than Trump himself ”.
A counterweight to López Obrador
In July, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador visited the White House to celebrate the new trade agreement accompanied by his team and a small number of Mexican businessmen. “We have received understanding and respect from you,” López Obrador told Trump, from a podium in the Rose Garden and in front of journalists and television cameras. For Mexicans who had been offended by the US president's disparaging comments in the past, López Obrador's praise was a source of criticism and outrage. But for businessmen, it was a sign that Trump has significant power over López Obrador.
At home, tensions between the private sector and the government flare up intermittently. Since coming to power in 2018, López Obrador has described the Mexican business community as a "rapacious minority" accustomed to benefiting from the treasury through abusive contracts. It seeks to "save" state companies, suspending private investment opportunities in the energy sector. He refused to support workers who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic with direct transfers, as well as to offer fiscal support, arguing that this would have been the equivalent of a rescue to companies.
“An important approach has been made with the White House, with Donald Trump's team, but what is more important still, with Jared Kushner, who is sincerely the person who handles the weaving and management of the business sector and the bilateral relationship. in a closer way with Mexico, ”says the analyst. Abed was also secretary of International Affairs for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and, after two years working for a law firm in Washington, she returned to Mexico in May. "When I talk to businessmen they tell me: 'Well, four more years of Donald Trump not only gives a certain certainty to the economic relationship, but rather Donald Trump is a counterweight to Andrés Manuel."
A US State Department report published last month warns that the López Obrador Administration is "undermining confidence in the rules of the game, particularly in the energy sector, by weakening the political autonomy" of the regulators. "The federal government has made regulatory changes to favor state companies," the report said, while budget cuts resulted in significant layoffs, hampered the agencies' ability to carry out their work, it adds. To top it off, the Department assures that corruption in the country is "a major concern." "Trade representatives, even those of US companies, believe that public funds are often diverted to private companies and individuals due to corruption and perceive that favoritism is widespread among public procurement officials," he says.
Despite the harsh report from the US government, businessmen are wrong to think that Trump is a counterweight to López Obrador, says Abed. “Trump doesn't care about Mexico. The only thing that matters to him is himself and that has been demonstrated with facts, "says the analyst," we see it because what Trump has done favors himself directly. He doesn't care if democracy improves in Mexico or if the economic panorama in Mexico improves, he only cares about the United States.
Trump's anti-Mexican rhetoric waned as his presidency progressed, but the impact it had on the Hispanic community in the US was increasing. Separate reports, one from the FBI and the other from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, suggest that attacks against Latinos in the United States have increased significantly since 2017, the year Trump came to power. An attack on the city of El Paso, Texas last year, in which a confessed murderer targeted Mexicans, was also felt in Mexico and revived anti-Trump sentiments in the country.
But Mexican Francisco Lozano, a partner in the JMJ Development company founded in Texas and an admirer of Trump since before he became president, did not feel attacked by the president. Lozano is part of the WhatsApp chat managed by Rubin and his profile photo portrays an encounter he had with Trump himself. "The Mexican should not take it personally because he was not referring to Mexicans like you or me, who can travel by plane or by commercial flight to the United States," says Lozano on the phone from his home in Monterrey in the north of the country. . For him, supporting Trump is not just a question of business pragmatism or commercial certainty, it is also a question of the values he shares with the president.
Lozano, like Trump, considers that migrants, both in the United States and in Mexico, must submit to law and order, since, “you cannot just jump over the fence like that and he was referring to those who do Many pranks". "The intelligent Mexican understands what the president is referring to," says Lozano, "Trump has shown high respect for Mexico and for our presidency so I think he shouldn't take himself personal."