The uncertain future of United States-Mexico relations

The relationship between Mexico and the United States enters an all-new phase with the election of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador ("AMLO"), and, based on campaign rhetoric, questions exist about future co-operation with the United States, the fate of NAFTA, and about the conduct of diplomacy in the Western Hemisphere. Some say AMLO has moderated from his previous campaign positions but it remains to be seen. We will watch what he does in office.

AMLO has long been the face of the far left in Mexico. After serving as the mayor of Mexico City and then narrowly losing the presidential election in 2006, AMLO claimed fraud and led months-long protests in the capital. He finished in second place in the 2012 presidential election as well. This time he won 53 percent of the vote. He inspired populist sentiments against globalization and capitalized on corruption within the Peña Nieto government.


Will past be prologue with AMLO? To what extent will his past actions and statements translate into action in his new position? Will he nationalize industries, including energy, and will he interact with the United States from as much of a narrow nationalistic position as he has argued for in the past?

During the campaign Hector Vasconcelos, a foreign affairs advisor to AMLO, downplayed talk about the candidate’s anti-American sentiments, but Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro was quick to tweet his congratulations on AMLO’s victory with the message “let the broad boulevards of sovereignty and friendship of our peoples be opened. Truth triumphs over lies and the hope of the great fatherland is renewed.” Mexico has expressed opposition to the corrupt Maduro regime. Let’s see what AMLO does next.

Additionally, the president-elect received congratulations and support from former left-wing Presidents Christina Kirchner of Argentina and Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, and current President Evo Morales of Bolivia. It is clear that the authoritarians are hopeful for another one of their own.

The future of the important working relationship between the United States and Mexico is at stake. Since the Bush administration launched the Merida Initiative in 2008, the two countries have forged closer ties on security co-operation and fighting drug trafficking than ever before. Information sharing between law enforcement in both countries has led to increased co-operation on identifying criminal operations effecting the United States and Mexico. The strengthened relationship has continued to develop under the Trump administration.

NAFTA is another important link tying our countries together. While there are improvements which can be made, and updates to reflect technologies which have emerged since 1993, the basic structure of the agreement should remain in place. Mexico appears ready to update its wage and working conditions laws as part of a new deal, a position AMLO claims to be open to discussing. Given the past record and uncertainty which surround AMLO's election, it is in the best interests of both countries to negotiate any changes to NAFTA prior to his inauguration on Dec. 1.

Under President Enrique Peña Nieto Mexico has elevated its diplomatic position in both Latin America and the world, and has spoken out forcefully against the Maduro regime in Venezuela, directly and in diplomacy at the Organization of American States. There is concern that AMLO will return Mexico to a foreign policy of non-intervention, the "Estrada Doctrine," which would unfortunately remove a key partner of the United States in promoting democracy in the hemisphere. Maduro’s tweet shows his glowing optimism that AMLO will pull Mexico back from working against his corrupt regime.

It is more important than ever to have strong ties between the United States and Mexico. We face crises over immigration from the failed states in the west of Central America, a despotic authoritarian regime in Venezuela, and hostile governments in Cuba and Bolivia. We also see many productive opportunities with the Macri government in Argentina, the economic successes of Colombia, Peru, and Panama, and the evolving Pacific Alliance.

Time will tell as to what side of these issues AMLO will come down, and we have to hope that the great progress which has been made in recent years will be nurtured and extended, rather than undermined.

Francis RooneyLaurence (Francis) Francis RooneyConservative group hits White House with billboard ads: 'What is Trump hiding?' Democrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing Amash says he will vote in favor of articles of impeachment MORE is the U.S. Representative for Florida's 19th District. He serves on the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and previously served as U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See under President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2008.