by Luis Brito
MEXICO CITY, June 12 (Xinhua) -- In the latest chapter of turbulent ties between Mexico and the United States, U.S. President Donald Trump proved to be a rash decision-maker who uses trade sanctions to score electoral points, despite its impact on the global economy, observers have said.
"Partners don't treat their counterparts like this," Adolfo Laborde, an expert in international relations at Mexico City's Anahuac University, told Xinhua, referring to repeated U.S. threats to slap punitive tariffs on Mexican imports unless Mexico stems the flow of undocumented migrants heading to the U.S. border.
"Such tariffs could wipe out hundreds of thousands of jobs on both sides of the border, raise the price of automobiles and electronic goods for Americans, increase unemployment in Mexico, and increase illegal immigration," Argentine-born columnist Andres Oppenheimer wrote Monday.
Just weeks after Washington had lifted tariffs on Mexican and Canadian steel and aluminum imports, Trump threatened to impose the tariffs before U.S. lawmakers ratified the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which was negotiated at Trump's insistence to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Mexico has been a punching bag for Trump even before he launched his presidential campaign, but it hasn't been his only trade target, as Canada, the European Union, China and Japan can attest, observers noted.
Laborde said Trump's attempts to set his own rules in global economic and financial matters, while ignoring multilateralism, were disconcerting.
Trump's negotiating style, which relies heavily on blackmail and whims, goes against existing frameworks of cooperation and contributes nothing to global governance or long-term projects, said Laborde.
"It generates uncertainty," Laborde said. "When you have uncertainty, the players in international trade adopt a conservative stance of not investing, not producing more, not having greater trade flows."
Mexican political observers, business leaders and analysts noted that behind Trump's latest saber-rattling lurk preparations for his campaign for re-election in 2020, as the president eyes a second term in the White House.
According to Mexican Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard, during his June 5 meeting in Washington to head off tariffs, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence was emphatic that "the immigration issue is of utmost interest to President Trump."
Porfirio Munoz Ledo, a leading Mexican politician and head of the Chamber of Deputies, on Monday described Trump's call for tariffs at any cost as "electoral bravado."
U.S. diplomacy has always served domestic interests, especially for the current administration, Roberto Gil Zuarth, a politician and former Senate leader, noted in an article this week.
Trump is a "populist who proposes restoring the nativist nationalism of walls and trade protectionism to 'make America great again,'" often with "disregard for the law," Gil Zuarth wrote in the daily El Financiero.
While the Mexican government was able to fend off the pressure of looming tariffs, the country's private sector is still unnerved, especially as Trump and his officials continue to invoke sanctions.
Moises Kalach, head of the Strategic Advisory Council for International Negotiations at the Business Coordinating Council, said the sector is likely to remain jittery as long as Trump occupies the White House.
"Sadly, I can't say with any certainty that we have survived the hard part. President Trump is in campaign mode and President Trump has found ... box office gold in thrashing Mexico as the villain," said Kalach, also the private sector adviser to the USMCA negotiations.
Trump has turned immigration into an electoral crutch he can use again and again in the lead up to next year's November poll, international relations expert Jose del Tronco told Xinhua.
However, Trump's combative diplomacy is unlikely to lead to good results in the medium to long term, said Del Tronco, a research professor at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences.
"In purely, strictly foreign policy terms, I think (combative diplomacy) is a bad idea because the United States is no longer the hegemonic power it was, neither in terms of trade nor finance," said Del Tronco.
On Friday, the Mexican and U.S. governments reached an agreement, with Mexico pledging to do more to stop the irregular entry of the mostly Central American migrants at its southern border, and to assist overburdened U.S. immigration agencies by helping process asylum applications on its soil.
The agreement suspended the implementation of tariffs that Trump threatened to impose on all Mexican imports beginning on June 10, though Trump and his aides continue to raise the specter of more trade sanctions if Mexico fails to notably reduce immigration flows by late summer.