MEXICO CITY – “I don’t want to get caught up in any debate with the president of the United States,” Mexico’s Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Friday, stressing the “mutual respect” that exists between the two nations.
“We shouldn’t fight with the government of the United States. There has been a policy of relationship and mutual respect that I regard highly,” the leftist president said during his daily morning press conference at the National Palace.
Asked about his apparent passivity in the face of “bullying” by Donald Trump, he said only that his administration seeks to have “a good relationship” with the US government.
The aim of Mexican policy toward the US should be to achieve a neighborly relationship based on “cooperation for development,” the Mexican leader said, vowing not to “fall for any provocation.”
“I will not be drawn into any debate with the president of the United States when we have 24 million Mexicans there,” Lopez Obrador said, referring to emigrants and their US-born offspring.
As an example of good relations with Washington, Lopez Obrador cited the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) on trade, which was signed last November by his predecessor, Enrique Peña Nieto, Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and is awaiting ratification by the respective legislatures.
To underline the point, he recalled that “everyone raised his or her hand” when he asked the crowd at a recent rally whether they supported a policy of “prudence” toward the US.
“And they are my advisers,” the Mexican president said.
A week ago, Trump threatened to impose an “economic penalty” on Mexico if it did not halt the flow of illegal drugs into US territory and prevent undocumented Central American migrants from reaching the border to apply for asylum.
That warning came a day after Trump dialed back on his previous threat to close the border immediately.
Lopez Obrador was set to travel Friday to Merida, in the Yucatan peninsula, for a conference of US and Mexican CEOs where he was expected to meet with US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
During a dinner Thursday night with Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, among others, Ross expressed thanks for Mexico’s efforts to ease the situation on the border and emphasized the importance of ratifying the USMCA.