With less than one month to go before the start of formal talks to update the North American Free Trade Agreement, Donald Trump is keeping as his top envoy south of the border a Mexico expert promoted under Hillary Clinton and chosen by Barack Obama.
While Trump continues to demand Mexico pay billions of dollars for a wall to stop undocumented immigrants and calls Nafta the worst trade deal in history, the tone of his ambassador, Roberta Jacobson, couldn’t be more different.
“I have said it before and I will say it again: the United States could not be more fortunate to have Mexico as a neighbor,” Jacobson said in a speech at a Fourth of July reception at her residence. Nafta has brought “benefits to all three nations.”
Jacobson has spent more than 30 years at the State Department focused on Mexico and Latin America, with a career spanning two Democratic and four Republican presidencies. In that time, she’s won the respect of Mexico’s leaders and become a trusted interlocutor with Washington. With Nafta talks scheduled to start on Aug. 16, the difference in the rhetoric between Jacobson and her ultimate boss show how unpredictable those negotiations have become.