Best columns: International
How they see us: Mexico, Canada worry about Trump
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is patting himself on the back, said León Krauze in El Universal (Mexico). He now thinks that he “showed prophetic vision” for having invited Donald Trump to meet with him two months ago. In fact, he only increased the chances of Trump’s catastrophic White House victory. When Peña Nieto made his invite, the Republican presidential candidate was “at his lowest point” in the campaign, having fought with the parents of a fallen war hero, and polls showed Trump with a pathetic 10 percent chance of winning. “While it’s absurd to think the Mexican visit made the key difference,” Trump did leave Mexico City looking statesmanlike, and his handshake with President Peña Nieto played prominently in his campaign ads. And now Peña Nieto thinks that he can “tame the tiger” because he looked it in the eye? He’s deluded. Reports suggest that President-elect Trump might put his immigration policy in the hands of Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who delights in persecuting Hispanics, jailing and deporting children, raiding workplaces, and building walls. For Mexicans, Kobach is “the devil.”
Trump has already said he will immediately deport 3 million illegal immigrants, said Juan Manuel Asai in La Crónica de Hoy (Mexico). That’s the same number President Obama deported over eight years. If by mid-2017 Mexico has millions of returnees needing work, services, and benefits, “we will be facing a mess worse than our worst nightmares.” Especially if we’re headed for recession, said El Siglo de Torreón (Mexico) in an editorial. Trump has called the North American Free Trade Agreement a disaster and promised to impose a 35 percent tax on goods from Mexico. He insists he will withhold remittances— the money Mexican workers in the U.S. send to their families back home—to pay for his border wall. All together, such measures could crush the Mexican economy.
Don’t worry: The real focus of Trump’s trade rage is not Mexico, but China, said Jorge Fernández Menéndez in Excélsior (Mexico). The Trump team has pointed out that the U.S. trade deficit with Mexico is $50 billion, about the same as the Mexican trade deficit with China. All that money leaves the Americas and rather than fueling the Mexican and U.S. economies, “ends up in Chinese coffers.” Trump’s people will surely propose not to kill NAFTA, but to improve it: to boost U.S. trade with both Mexico and Canada and “create a strategic allied zone that gives the U.S. an advantage in the economic and commercial confrontation with China.” The incoming president will soon realize that he can’t tear up NAFTA, said Patrick LeBlond in The Globe and Mail (Canada). Millions of American jobs and businesses depend on that deal, particularly in the southern U.S., and Southern senators will tell him so. Canada is willing to renegotiate the 22-year-old trade treaty, but only “in a way that deepens integration in North America, not limits it.” Economic reality will trump “Trump’s hyperbolics.”
Seizing the opportunity in Trump’s win
The election of Donald Trump represents a new chance for Israel, said Amos Yadlin. President-elect Trump has said little about the Middle East, beyond voicing support for moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. His incoming administration has no definite policy. Yet that very uncertainty is a tremendous opportunity for Israel. The trust that was lost between the U.S. and Israel during the Obama administration can now be restored. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should use his immense personal persuasive power to impress upon the incoming president the importance of mutual agreement on the major issues facing our region: above all, Iran. It’s “unlikely that the Trump administration will cancel” the agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear capabilities in the short term—the deal has already been implemented and for now “its risks are low compared with other alternatives.” But in the long term, the two allies will have to “agree on the principle that a regime calling for Israel’s destruction will not receive legitimacy for a wide nuclear program.” Netanyahu will have to persuade Trump to “give Israel all the operational abilities to act” against Iran, militarily if necessary. This is our chance not only to influence U.S. policy but also to “be an integral part of it.”
Should the Kremlin be happy?
American “rednecks have given their government the middle finger,” and the Russian elite is “euphoric,” said Georgy Bovt. Russian pundits are sure that President Vladimir Putin will have an easier time dealing with the “transparent” and blunt Donald Trump than with “hypocrites” like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. They think he’ll give Russia a free hand in dealing with its neighbors, especially the Baltic states and Ukraine. But look closer and you’ll see that the people set to take key foreign policy roles in the Trump administration are “the same right-wing conservatives of the Reagan era.” They follow a doctrine of “peace through strength” and will replace Obama’s military budget cuts with a massive defense buildup. An expensive arms race seems inevitable. To the extent that he has given specifics, Trump has promised to develop a global missile defense system, which will force Moscow to update its own nuclear arsenal. Russia’s elite could soon regret its premature celebrations. Remember, they “spoke contemptuously of Ronald Reagan too when he became president.” What can an actor do to us, they sneered. Yet just a few years later, the Soviet Union was no more. The Kremlin shouldn’t underestimate this “upstart billionaire demagogue.”