As many expected and feared, Donald Trump has continued to use the medium of Twitter to conduct not only his personal vendettas against people who irritate him but also against sovereign nations. Although he does not realize it yet, Trump just received a huge diplomatic slap in the face from the President of Mexico. It is almost unheard of for a head of state to cancel a scheduled state visit, short of death or national emergency.
Using Trump’s own weapon against him, Pena Nieto advised the President, via Twitter, that he had decided to cancel his visit to the White House, set for January 31st, because of Trump’s insistence that Mexico would have to pay, one way or another, for his grandiose border wall. This should not have come as a surprise since the Mexican president had told him the exact same thing in September 2016 following their impromptu meeting at the end of August.
In the interim, the former president of Mexico, Vicente Fox Quesada, has also taken Trump to task time and time again, repeating that Mexico was not going to pay for his “f*cking wall.” Fox has also had some other choice, and not very nice, comments to make about the man who is now the President of the United States. Strangely, Trump has not responded to these deliberate slurs. As another writer for this site said recently, Trump may be afraid of Vicente Fox.
Trump, the self-proclaimed “greatest negotiator ever” seems to have overlooked one of the basic premises of deal making. You don’t challenge someone who has nothing to lose. Pena Nieto’s approval ratings in Mexico are even worse than Trump’s – hovering around 12% versus Trump’s 36%. By standing up to Trump’s bullying tactics, he won’t lose any ground with his people and could possibly gain support.
If Trump thought he could throw his weight around with Mexico to get his own way, he seriously misjudged the Mexican people and their president. This was not some contractor he could stiff for payments or newspaper he could threaten to sue. The people of Mexico are proud of their country, their heritage, and their culture. Trump started out of the gate offending them by referring to Mexicans coming into the United States as rapists.
They also know that Trump’s threats are empty words. If he imposes 45% tariffs or a 20% “import fee” on goods imported from Mexico, it won’t be the people of Mexico who pay for it – it will be the people of America. And they know that the United States is not the only kid on the block. If Trump’s America First policy prevents U.S. companies from investing in Mexico, there are a number of other players, especially China, willing to step in to fill the void.
Seasoned diplomats could tell President Trump if he would listen, that building and maintaining relationships with other countries can be a long, painstaking task. Even with allies, it is critical to keep lines of communication open and to tread lightly to avoid offending cultural sensibilities.
Trump decided to begin his presidency by offending our neighbor, our ally, and one of our largest trading partners. And he came out on the short end of the deal. And don’t think for one single second that the rest of the world doesn’t know this.