By RICARDO CASTILLO
An event that went almost unnoticed in the Mexican media on Thursday, April 4, was the meeting between World Trade Organization (WTO) director general Roberto Azevêdo and Mexican Economy Secretary Graciela Márquez Colín.
The main reason why this meeting was not given the press coverage that it should have been afforded was because it was overshadowed by the rantings of U.S. President Donald Trump, who was threatening Mexico with multiple sanctions if it did not curb migration from Central America and the seemingly unstoppable flow of drugs into the United States from Mexico.
In his last tirade, Trump gave Mexico a one-year period to stop both or else he would slap a 25 percent countervailing duty on cars assembled in Mexico. And, of course, in his very personal style, the U.S. president added the warning, “I’m not kidding.”
WTC’s Azevêdo and Márquez Colín held a press conference after they’d both met with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), a meeting which AMLO had previously described as nothing more than a “courtesy visit” and one not meant to deal with the ongoing trade discrepancies between Mexico and the United States.
Maybe that was how AMLO saw the visit, but Márquez Colín made a point of clarifying what the bilateral relationship between the two countries is really about.
“For our government, it is very important to keep separate the themes of migration and commerce,” she said. “Certainly, sometimes the U.S. government mixes up the two issues, but for us. it is very important to keep in one lane the issue of the ratification of the free-trade treaty and in another, those that have to do with migration. In the case of new tariffs, we would have to discuss the issue in terms of a relationship between trading partners that are in the process of revamping a trade agreement.”
Notice that Márquez Colín at no time mentioned drugs. The fact is, she didn’t have to because that is a theme for U.S. Attorney General and Fiscal of Mexico to sort out.
It was also worth noting that on Friday, April 5, during his visit to the “Wall” at Calexico, California, across the border from Mexicali, Baja California, Trump was expected to make an announcement of at least a partial border closure, but instead, he ended the day praising Mexico’s efforts to stop immigration from Central America.
There was no closure, although some Mexican burreros (burro riders), or trailer drivers and owners who carry merchandise across the border into U.S. border cities, complained that they were feeling the pinch in terms of time delays by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents to expedite their cargo.
Márquez Colín said that the delays were “minimal,” adding that the recent reassignment of 750 CBP agents to handle the red-tape work of overseeing the enormous number of Central Americans demanding “asylum” had forced CBP authorities to reduce the number of agents devoted to commerce. She stated, however, she did not consider this move a partial closure, but rather an administrative problem U.S. Customs is currently confronting.
“This is not a total closure; it’s a partial one and simply has to do with a decision the North American government has carried out in order to relocate officials to border vigilance, so it is a closing for Sundays,” she said. “This is not a measure that can be taken as a controversy (for the WTO) because it is simply an administrative decision.”
The WTO’s Azevêdo stated that his organization is fully behind President AMLO in order to help him meet his goals in economic matters, including the successful ratification of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (UMSCA).
Márquez Colín, however, made a point of saying that if tariffs are imposed on Mexican manufactured goods, she would consider filing for a controversy panel to come to a solution in resolving the issue, as Mexico has already done in the cases of steel and aluminum tariffs.
But, at least for now, Márquez Colín said, though there are delays at the border threatening the survival of perishables, the situation could not be considered a crisis.
In order to file a complaint before the WTO, “we would have to wait for a definite border closure as a measure intended to obstruct commerce and not in administrative terms, as we see it today. With what we have until now, the Mexican government cannot act based on allegations, but on facts.”
” When that measure comes,” she said, “then we will surely act, but I don’t want to speculate on declarations that most of the time don’t coalesce.”