Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Photo: Punto Medio

By RICARDO CASTILLO

Whereas U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump’s visit during his first campaign on Aug. 31, 2016, represented a devastating political for then-Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, current Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) visit to the White House on Wednesday, July 8, will surely be beneficial to the U.S.-Mexican bilateral agenda as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) kicks off.

Please notice a glaring oddity in this “bilateral” meet: It should be “trilateral.” The great absentee in this week’s meeting will be that of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Trudeau spent last week pondering on whether to attend or not, given his steep differences with Trump and the growing rate of the covid-19 pandemic in the United States, only to decide that there was nothing for Canada to gain from the gathering. Consequently, Trudeau opted for skipping it until the Trump administration drops its countervailing duties on Canadian aluminum and steel.

On Monday, July 6, AMLO announced during his morning press conference that, after a long conversation with Trudeau, both agreed that Trudeau will visit Mexico “as soon as possible” to celebrate the new USMCA – known as CUSMA in Canada and T-MEC in Mexico – that went into effect on Wednesday, July 1.

On July 4, AMLO offered his usual weekly Saturday statement of the week, but this time, he used the full two minutes to congratulate the people of the United States for their Independence Day and to state the purpose of his trip.

“To the Washington encounter with the president of the United States, Donald Trump, I will go representing the Mexican people with decorum and dignity, manifesting the strength of our great nation,” AMLO said.

The agenda of the Wednesday, July 8. conversations has not yet been made public, but AMLO forecast that one topic he will strive for will be to “equalize, even if it takes a long process” Mexican wages with those of the United States and Canada.

Trying to pave his long and winding rocky road to the White House, AMLO looked for the amiable side of Trump’s personality.

“When he was young. President Trump, like me, played baseball,” AMLO said.

“He was a pitcher. He got to throw 80- to 85-mile pitches. But at the same time. I was batting pitchers hurling at more than a 100 miles an hour, so we can talk baseball.”

The nature of AMLO’s flight to Washington on Tuesday, July 7, is a matter of great controversy, and surely, cartoonists will not let this chance go to make fun of the situation.

For one, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Christopher Landau issued an apology because AMLO could not stay at Blair House, the usual mansion to accommodate foreign leaders, because it is currently under repair.

Immediately, a cartoonist drew AMLO  lying on a bench with a cop telling him, “Sorry, Mr. President, you can’t stay overnight at the Washington Airport.”

On the issue, AMLO specified that the U.S. government offered to pay for his hotel, but he said he would prefer to stay with “friends.” Of course, the Mexican Embassy residence also has accommodations, just in case.

AMLO will be flying on a commercial airline. He adamantly refused to use the Transporte Presidencial Uno (TP1) previously used by former Mexican Presidents Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto.

“It’s cheaper this way,” AMLO said.

No doubt, flanking the president will be Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo, Ebrard who will be also performing as the official interpreter since AMLO does not speak English. Apparently, Ebrard has also organized a meeting with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who saw the USMCA negotiations reach a smooth end.

There are many questions as to what will be the outcome of this mini powwow. One question is whether Trump is aware of the existence of AMLO’s 2017 Amazon bestseller “Oye, Trump,” (“Listen, Trump”), in which AMLO published his speeches during his tour through the United States addressing Mexicans.

AMLO himself admitted what many a columnist in Mexico has been warning of, that Trump will use the visit to – what else – trump up his electoral campaign as the incumbent.

“There’s always that risk”, AMLO said last week.

 

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