Castaneda Reminds The U.S. Of The Benefits Of A Friendly Southern Neighbor
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We've got a Mexican perspective this morning of President-elect Donald Trump. The incoming president will soon translate his rhetoric about Mexico into reality.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
He spoke of building a giant wall along the southern border. Supporters now say that may mean extra wall along part of the border.
MARTIN: He once vowed to deport millions of Mexicans and others, but he has dialed that back somewhat. He says he wants to rework the North American Free Trade Agreement or drop it.
INSKEEP: A former Mexican foreign minister has written that if the new president makes unreasonable demands, Mexico has the power to just say no. Jorge Castaneda was Mexico's foreign minister in the early 2000s. He says if President-elect Trump thinks the United States has leverage over Mexico, well, Mexico has leverage, too.
JORGE CASTANEDA: Mexico has paid an enormous price for its war on drugs, which I disagree with, but the governments here have pursued. This has been a costly, bloody war for Mexico. It has done it largely because the United States has insisted, but it has done it because these have been friendly administrations on the U.S. side. It doesn't have to do it.
INSKEEP: Let me put a point on what you're suggesting there because I think I hear you saying if the Trump administration plays rough with Mexico, one thing Mexico could very well do is let more drugs flow to the United States.
CASTANEDA: Well, not make as much of an effort as it has the last 10 years to stop that flow. There is no good reason for Mexico to pay the enormous price it has paid the last 10 years for an administration in the U.S. that is unfriendly and hostile to Mexico. Nice, good neighbors, they don't build walls, they don't deport people, and they don't take jobs away from Mexicans by enticing American companies to relocate to the United States. Now, the U.S. can do that if it wants to, but Mexico can also do things on its side.
INSKEEP: How do you say no to deportations? The United States already deports a lot of people back to Mexico. We have the idea that the president-elect might send more. How do you say no to that?
CASTANEDA: You can say we will give you a lawyer to go to a hearing so that to begin with it will be very, very difficult for that system to deal with so many deportations through hearings as opposed to simple so-called voluntary repatriation. But there's another element that Mexico has, which is to tell the U.S. authorities we will take any Mexican you want to deport as long as you can prove he's Mexican, which is, by the way, exactly what the United States does with people from other countries. If I arrive at the U.S. border tomorrow and I say I'm American, the U.S. border and customs enforcement guy will say, yeah, well, you sound American, but show me proof. He's not going to let me in just because I speak good English.
INSKEEP: You're saying the busload of deportees arrives at the Mexican border, which is something that happens today, and Mexican authorities just look at these people and say, nope, can't prove they're Mexican.
CASTANEDA: Would you let a hundred of my people in who I said are American without any proof of citizenship, without any proof of birth, without anything, just because they look American and you're telling me they look Mexican? I don't know what Mexicans look like. I know Mexicans who have papers. Prove to me they're Mexican.
INSKEEP: Let's move on to the biggest thing here - NAFTA. The president-elect has said he wants to cancel or renegotiate NAFTA. Your suggestion is just say no to renegotiating NAFTA. Is that what Mexico should really do in your view, just dare the president-elect to cancel it?
CASTANEDA: If we open it up, in the interim, very few people are going to want to invest in Mexico because the rules of the game will no longer be clear. The minute you reopen it, any investor will say I'll wait until this is over so I see what the new rules are going to be. This can be extremely damaging to Mexico. We need American investment, we need Japanese investment, we need European investment, in order to grow and create jobs in Mexico so Mexicans don't go to the United States without papers and create the problems that Donald Trump says Mexicans create in the U.S. He can't have it both ways, you know, take jobs away from Mexico and at the same time not want Mexicans to go and work in the United States. That's not really going to happen.
INSKEEP: Are you underlining, though, Mexico's economic dependence on a good relationship with the United States?
CASTANEDA: It depends enormously. Eighty-five percent of our exports go to the United States. Something like 70 percent of all foreign investment in Mexico comes from the United States. President Trump should try and understand what the U.S.'s overriding interest in Mexico has been for the last hundred odd years. It's Mexican stability. The U.S. has enjoyed total peace and comfort on its southern border. A lot of countries don't have that. Count your blessings because if Mexico becomes unstable, that is a headache for the United States which dwarfs 700 jobs at the Carrier plant in Indianapolis.
INSKEEP: One final thing then - Americans are listening, some of whom - or many of whom - may have genuine concerns about illegal immigration to the United States, genuine concerns about job loss in the United States. Is there something more that Mexico could do beyond whatever it's already doing on those issues to be helpful to its neighbor?
CASTANEDA: On immigration, I think there's a lot that can be done by both countries. Even President-elect Trump has mentioned this. He wants a wall, he said, but I want beautiful doors in the wall. That makes sense. But the doors are more important than the wall in many senses. What you need to do is legalize the future flow because the U.S. economy will be needing Mexican labor for many, many years to come in the future. The wage differential between the two countries right now is almost 10 to 1. So that means that Mexicans are willing to work in the United States for more than they make in Mexico but much less than what Americans would want for the same type of jobs. Immigration from Mexico to the United States began before World War I. It's not that it just started last year when Donald Trump found out about it.
INSKEEP: Jorge Castaneda, thanks very much for taking the time.
CASTANEDA: Thank you, Steve.
INSKEEP: He is the former foreign minister of Mexico. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.