Mexico Proposes Legislation to Counter Border Wall Expansion

Should Trump follow through on threats to expand the wall, withdraw U.S. participation in NAFTA or stop remittances, Mexico could target American assets in Mexico – assets estimated to cost over $100 billion.

By Lorne MatalonJanuary 9, 2017 8:59 am| ,

Allyson Michele/Texas Standard

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has said he wants to work collaboratively with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on a host of issues, including but not restricted to, discussion about an expanded wall.

Peña hasn’t commented on the wall publicly since the U.S. election. But his former foreign secretary, Claudia Ruiz Massieu, has.

“We’ve been very clear on the fact that Mexico will never consider paying for a wall,” she told PBS Newshour.

Ruiz Massieu was replaced Jan. 4. She had reportedly opposed Trump’s visit to Mexico last summer. The new Foreign Secretary Luis Videgaray, was instrumental in arranging that visit. He was forced to resign as Finance Secretary following widespread criticism in Mexico after Trump’s visit.

His career has been resurrected and he’ll now be Mexico’s lead negotiator with the United States. In making the change, Mexican President Peña Nieto said he has ordered his new Foreign Secretary to “accelerate dialogue and contacts” with the incoming U.S. administration.

Miriam Grunstein is an attorney and former advisor to the Mexican Senate on international law. Legislation has been proposed at the Mexican Senate that bans the use of public funds on any project that is “against the country’s interest.” That’s widely taken to mean the wall.

“Just because of tantrums, we could really waste a golden opportunity of uniting,” Grunstein says.

The proposed Mexican legislation would lead to a review of some of the most fundamental treaties between the two countries, among them the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe. The treaty ceded Texas and California, as well as parts of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming to the U.S.

The bill also states, “in cases where the assets of our fellow citizens or companies are affected by a foreign government, as Donald Trump has threatened, the Mexican government should proportionally expropriate assets and properties of foreigners from that country on our territory.”

That means that should Trump follow through on threats to expand the wall, withdraw U.S. participation in NAFTA or stop remittances, Mexico could target U.S. assets in Mexico – assets estimated by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to cost over $100 billion.

Ignacio de Moral doesn’t believe it will come to this. He supervises the Mexican federal government’s economic development plans in the state of Veracruz.

“It will take years, longer than [Trump will] be president, to build a wall,” he says in Spanish. “There won’t be a wall.”

Even senior U.S. politicians have cast a degree of doubt on the idea.

Texas Republican Congressional Representative Pete Sessions has said the wall is “an analogy” for fences and drones. But in Mexico, the wall is part of a suite of political and economic threats against the country.

Jeff Abrego is a hedge fund manager in Mexico City. He says Mexico has been wary after the U.S. election.

“It’s shaken the confidence here in the country from an economic standpoint right to its foundation, to its core,” he says.

The wall has become a staple on the country’s talk shows. Luis Cárdenas told his audience on MVS Radio that not all Americans are like minded.

“It’s not the entire U.S. that wants the wall,” Cárdenas said on one broadcast. “Just a part.”

But Mexicans are braced for some form of this campaign pledge coming true. A man who entered the U.S. illegally before returning, José Arellano, says one group of Mexicans wants the wall built. And that’s organized crime.

“More power to the mafias,” Arellano says in Spanish.

Security analyst Alejandro Hope, who served on former President Vicente Fox’s transition team, says an expanded wall will likely mean more bloodshed in Mexico, with organized crime fighting for control of smuggling routes into the U.S.

“The remaining routes for illicit trafficking will become far more valuable,” Hope says. “And that probably means more conflict on the Mexican side.”

If the wall is substantively expanded, Hope says he believes it will also slow cooperation with the U.S. on existing arrangements on border security and immigration.

Fronteras Desk reporter Lorne Matalon is the 2016-17 Energy Journalism Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin’s Energy Institute and KBH Center for Energy, Law and Business. This story has also been published here.