The Outcome of the Trump-AMLO Meeting

Nino Pagliccia

Image source: The Economist.

In diplomatic terms, both presidents may have gotten what they were looking for but the final gain will be decided at home.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) has ended his trip to Washington that was intended to celebrate the signing of a joint declaration pertaining to the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) that took effect July 1. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was the only leader of the three who was absent.

The author is not aware of any official invitation from President Trump to Trudeau. There has been a nudge from AMLO in a phone conversation to join him but it was not AMLO’s role to extend one. Trump does seem to have a reputation of preferring one-to-one meetings.

However, Trudeau may have not been in the mood for celebrations when the Trump administration is threatening to reimpose tariffs on aluminum imports from Canada despite the USMCA. The Prime Minister admitted to that when he announced he would not attend the meeting “citing tensions over possible US tariffs on Canadian aluminum”.

The concerns over the coronavirus pandemic that forced the closing of the Canada-US border may have been overplayed since Canadian External Affairs François-Philippe Champagne did travel by car to New York in mid-June for the vote at the UN where Canada lost its bid to a seat at the UNSC.

But even with Canada absent, there was plenty to analyse from the Trump-AMLO meeting from both sides of the border.

From Mexico’s Standpoint

AMLO initially justified his visit, the first trip abroad during his presidency, as a good neighbourly action but he also added that the US-Mexico relationship is “also an indispensable commercial and economic relationship.” This is a very pragmatic approach coming from a president who was elected for his firm foreign policy position against a US administration in defense of Mexican sovereignty by promising that he would not be bullied by his Northern neighbour.

As if accepting that the USMCA was not enough to show the “indispensable…relationship”, AMLO saw it necessary to give a more visible sign of acquiescence to Washington, hence his seemingly ingratiating trip via a commercial flight at the time that the COVID-19 pandemic is at its worst in the US One wonders if his repeated “nudge” to Trudeau to join him was AMLO’s way of not being seen as the only compliant partner. Or, was he perhaps following Trump’s request to make an invitation that he knew would be refused? We will never know.

On the US-Venezuela issue, AMLO said diplomatically that he would not take sides in the dispute, which might explain his lack of involvement in the so-called Lima Group that seeks regime change in Venezuela. But he also stated that:

he would sell gasoline to Venezuela for ‘humanitarian’ reasons if asked to, despite US sanctions on the South American country and its state-run oil firm, PDVSA.”

That kind of promise by other governments has typically received a very strong threatening reaction by the Trump Administration. Consequently, some Mexican firms and people, allegedly involved in trading Venezuelan oil, were not the exception and were hit by US extraterritorial sanctions less than three weeks before the trip. In an apparent obedient action, the Mexican government’s financial crime department froze the bank accounts of companies and people that were blacklisted by the US.

On the domestic front, AMLO had received criticism even before his visit to the White House. But it must have been very hard, and possibly incomprehensible, for many Latin Americans to hear a Latin American president say:

you have never sought to impose anything on us, violating our sovereignty. Instead of the Monroe Doctrine, you have followed in our case the wise advice of … prudent George Washington, who said, ‘Nations should not take advantage of the unfortunate condition of other peoples.’ You have not tried to treat us as a colony. On the contrary, you have honored our condition as an independent nation. That’s why I’m here, to express to the people of the United States that their president has behaved with us with kindness and respect.”

It must have been very hard, and possibly incomprehensible, for many Mexicans to hear their president addressing Trump during a joint press conference and saying that, “We have received from you understanding and respect.”

They may still remember Trump’s anti-immigrant policies and accusations against Mexicans as criminals and rapists. As if reassuring both Mexicans and Americans, Lopez Obrador also said, “Some thought that our ideological differences would take us inevitably to a confrontation. Fortunately that omen did not happen.”

(The full transcript of the press conference can be read here).

On a separate occasion, he reiterated that “we are not fighting, we are friends.”

More ominously, AMLO has been confronting serious opposition at home with a movement that wants to oust him before the end of his term in 2024. A recent investigative report points to “far-right oligarchs” in Mexico bent at toppling AMLO and who would welcome US help for doing that.

From The US Standpoint

While AMLO’s critics ponder whether his visit to the White House was timely before the US presidential elections in November, in the US, the visit is a definite gain for Republicans and their candidate. The signing of the USMCA is by itself a major political score for Trump who had campaigned on the promise to re-write the previous NAFTA agreement.

To have the president of Mexico come and sing praises in Trump’s ears is the proverbial icing on top of the cake; and the cherry on top of it all is AMLO not meeting with Democrat contender Joe Biden. However, not much should be read in his avoidance at meeting with him because regardless who will be elected in November, US foreign policy will not substantially change.

Trump showed his gratitude to the president of Mexico by bestowing him with words of admiration both personally about their shared friendship “against all odds” and for the “incredible” Mexican people.

Concluding Thoughts

It is too early to judge the full consequences of the Trump-Lopez Obrador meeting in Washington given their respective domestic political realities. Relationships between governments are delicate as well. We may be having a glimpse of this delicate balance, albeit based on trade and not on ideology, even between two close friends like the US and Canada, which prevented Trudeau from attending the USMCA celebration.

In geopolitical terms, relationships can also quickly change especially when Venezuela is currently the political force that can trigger the ire of the US against any world government, but especially in the region, that will dare challenge US dominance and hegemony in its “backyard” of which Mexico is considered to be part.

Both the US and Mexico have a lot at stake. The US is facing a close election in November and AMLO’s visit may help Trump’s odds. Mexico is facing domestic right-wing opposition to progressive policies, and AMLO’s visit to Washington may defuse that perception by showing his close alliance with Washington, but at the same time he will have to maintain his core support from the majority of Mexicans. In diplomatic terms, both presidents may have gotten what they were looking for but the final gain will be decided at home.

Originally published by One World Press


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Jul 23, 2020 10:24 PM

Trudeau and his Finance Minister are currently embroiled in a major corruption scandal and both are being asked to resign. Google: WE Charity Scandal

Jul 23, 2020 7:47 PM

None of this matters. Both countries are lost in permanent lockdown. There won’t be an economy to worry about.

Jul 23, 2020 6:58 PM

It’s interesting (but not surprising) that no one in the political arena addresses the problem of the cocaine coming from Colombia thru Mexico into the U.S. which is keeping the narco-gangs in Mexico in business. It’s even more interesting that Colombia is not only a close ally of the U.S. with U.S. troops and military bases there, but also Colombia’s status as NATO’s first Latin American global partner.

Jul 24, 2020 2:18 PM
Reply to  Hsuan

That’s because it’s the CIA running the drugs. It’s pretty well documented. Think Ollie North.

Jul 23, 2020 4:44 PM


Jul 23, 2020 3:07 PM

amlo is not progressive. He is repressive towards the Mexican people. His covid policies have left large parts of mexico bombed out and people have no idea if they are even going to have open schools in a few weeks time. These places were once functioning, bustling cities and towns.-
Now they are destroyed.

These were the people who elected him. He has utterly betrayed them. I would think he should openly join forces with people who supposedly want to get him out. He can then just come out as their fellow oligarch. That will end his problems. As to the people who elected him, he really doesn’t care about their suffering. They are on their own.

Genuflecting to Trump is simply an affirmation of his depraved economic policy.

Jim McDonagh
Jim McDonagh
Jul 23, 2020 2:12 PM

Mr Trudeau in fact has been engulfed in yet another corruption scandal , that and the fact that the Ukrainian NAZI , and American fifth columnist Chrystia Freeland was parachuted into Canada some time back and is now the defacto Prime Minister , making Mr Trudeau completely redundant . Both are known to be creatures of the Democratic faction of the US political circus as well.

Jul 23, 2020 2:39 PM
Reply to  Jim McDonagh

Freedland’s story and the use of Canada’s tight-knit Ukrainian diaspora as the basis to take over Ukraine needs to be understood. Polly did good coverage in her censored video: Anti-Corruption Is The New Corruption:

sharon marlowe
sharon marlowe
Jul 23, 2020 1:04 PM

“More ominously, AMLO has been confronting serious opposition at home with a movement that wants to oust him before the end of his term in 2024. A recent investigative report points to “far-right oligarchs” in Mexico bent at toppling AMLO and who would welcome US help for doing that.”
That “investigative report”, from The Greyzone’s, José Argüello, frames AMLO as a “progressive”, and Gilberto Lazano as “Trump-like”, and leading the “far right”. So after reading this article above, it looks like there is not “serious opposition” to AMLO’s presidency. He and Trump are fine with each other. The “serious opposition” may be just another television show for the public of Mexico to watch.without it being meaningful. AMLO will stay in power, he’s fine with right wingers afterall.

Jul 23, 2020 5:28 PM
Reply to  sharon marlowe

Gilberto Lozano, owner of the biggest Coca-Cola bottling plant in the world, is obviously an oligarch and crackpot with a grudge towards the opposing group of oligarch crackpots with which AMLO is making very good business. He is most likely plotting (or pretending to) remove AMLO. But to be fair, the guy was also plotting (or pretending) against our previous president Peña (not precisely a “progressive”).
And that last one is an interesting bit of information, because, beyond all the theatricals, it draws the line between the two groups fighting for power: on one side AMLO, who aligned himself with the previous PRI administration (the party from which he emerged) and the neo-liberal/conservative wing of Calderón (2006-2012) and Fox (2000-2006, former CEO of Coca-Cola in Mexico).
100% of AMLO´s speeches are (fair, on point) critiques of previous governments, but somehow he never mentions the government before his.

Beyond that, the international alignments seem to suggest that AMLO´s wing is perhaps better positioned: Génaro García Luna, CIA´s narco-security state guy in Mexico during Calderón, was arrested while living comfortably for almost a decade in Miami. That kind of arrest can´t be decided by a local judge in Brooklyn, and he wouldn´t be living there with all his criminal baggage if he wasn´t confident that previous agreements would be preserved. Some top negotiations occurred, and for AMLO, who (correctly) called for García Luna´s prosecution and who made of him the biggest symbol of the corruption and criminality of previous governments, was hugely significant.
Also, the supposed leaked document is laughable. I can´t understand how someone would present it as prove of some right wing plot to topple AMLO (which like I said, it is most likely brewing as I write this). It isn´t signed, it was delivered to the president´s office who presented it saying they “couldn´t corroborate its origins or authenticity”.
When one understand the theatricals involved in Mexican politics the only thing clear is that everything could happen and that everyone is playing a part in the farce. Mexican telenovelas have more credible plots.
And AMLO gains a lot from portraying himself as the progressive victim, I wouldn´t be surprised if we learn later that the document was produced by AMLO´s propaganda team.

Jul 23, 2020 5:41 PM
Reply to  sharon marlowe

As a side note, the Coca-Cola link goes even deeper.
Our current covid-tzar, studied at the (cough, cough) John Hopkins Centre. He received millions in grants from the Bloomberg Foundation to lobby for taxing carbonated drinks and other harmful foods. And you bet he he did, working for the previous government of Peña.
And that is perhaps the sole reason for the ultra right wing coup.

sharon marlowe
sharon marlowe
Jul 23, 2020 11:07 PM
Reply to  Skeptic

Thank you, Skeptic:)

Jul 23, 2020 10:42 AM

For a president who allegedly holds a “foreign policy position against a US administration in defense of Mexican sovereignty” and who promises “that he would not be bullied by his Northern neighbour”, is odd that:
1) He displayed the new Mexican National Guard around the southern border, effectively making it an extension of the US migration police inside Mexican territory. There are parts of Mexico where people selling tortillas on the sidewalk are being extorted by criminal gangs. But those areas don´t have half of the police/military presence, because the national guard is busy hunting Central American migrants, as agreed by both governments after Trump´s threat to impose tariffs to Mexican imports.
2) He allowed for the imposition of “labour enforcement officers” to supervise Mexican industries on Mexican soil. There are already reports of how these officers are “mixing so well” with (the incredibly corrupt) union leaders.
3) He signed the ultra neoliberal T-MEC, which threatens to kill the few things that are left of, among other things, Mexican agriculture. Now, Mexican producers are 100% dependent on American and Canadian agroindustries since the new treaty forces the Mexican government to adhere to UPOV 91 act, which grants intellectual property rights to plant breeders – mainly transnational seed corporations – and limits the use and exchange of seeds by producers, who cannot replant the product of their harvest without the permission of the company that has the breeder’s right.
And those are only a few examples…
If there is something to be understood about AMLO, is that he is a show man, a good one at that. He grasps better than anyone else how to exploit the left right divide to magically make any cause seem progressive: from hunting poor migrants with a newly created military police, to enforcing a “Plan for a Nation” whose author is a hedge fund manager, World Bank advisor, Pinochet´s old friend, Monsanto´s partner and member the neoliberal gang that ruined Mexico. And all the way to forging alliances with Christian fundamentalist groups.
A genius.

Jul 23, 2020 10:18 AM

What a sinister and malign enterprise is the American nation. From their murderous behaviour in Nicaragua, Panama, EL Salvador etc. they continue to threaten and bribe their South American neighbours. Obrador appears to be between a rock and a hard place.

jim McDonagh
jim McDonagh
Jul 23, 2020 7:36 PM
Reply to  Grafter

I’ve spent some non tourist time in Mexico over the years since the 1960s and always viewed everyday life there as the future for the Americans and Canadians while tourists believe that the poverty , corruption , and lack of services represent the past.My personal view which seems increasingly accurate these days in both Canada and the US as the wheels fall off of neoliberalism , and straight up global tyranny replaces it…

Jul 23, 2020 9:36 AM

The left right paradigm is fake, presidents are puppets, and there is a global criminal enterprise trying to formulate a global government. Not that hard.”  

jim McDonagh
jim McDonagh
Jul 23, 2020 7:37 PM
Reply to  ame

I agree.That is certainly apparent these days.

Jul 23, 2020 5:31 AM

Justin Trudeau was too deep into his latest scandal: his WE Charity corruption.

Jul 23, 2020 10:18 AM
Reply to  Antonym

Who could have guessed. Another scam charity handing out hundred of thousands of dollars to… … rich people. Yay!

Jim McDonagh
Jim McDonagh
Jul 23, 2020 2:21 PM
Reply to  Moneycircus

Many millions not thousands . He with his provincial cohorts will now attempt to use the faux covid pandemic to “wag the dog” by declaring it a law that “face nappies” are to be worn at all times . Which is working out well in the US , as their election nears ?

Jul 23, 2020 3:51 AM

Isn’t Obrador a “populist”, according to the hipster Left? I’m glad he ignored that racist old halfwit Biden. The DemoKKKrats need to be liquidated if the world is to come out of the darkness. Hillary is due for a court hearing on September 9. The Queen of Evil will find some reason not to turn up, of course.

S Cooper
S Cooper
Jul 23, 2020 3:26 AM

A close election? A better description for it is A SHAM ELECTION. Want to buy a bridge?