01/9/2018 The Expert Take
By Luis Rubio
The presidential election of 2018 will be the first to be held in Mexico without an international anchor that guarantees the continuity of economic policy since the era of competitive, democratic elections was inaugurated back in the 90s. That anchor has proven to be key to attracting investment and conferring certainty to the population as well as to investors and hence, to the gradual evolution of the country. This does not necessarily mean that there will be radical changes in the government’s strategy. However, for the first time since NAFTA came into effect in 1994, the decision of how to conduct the country’s destiny will no longer be constrained by international commitments and, thus, whoever wins the upcoming election will have unbound power in this regard. The whole political point of NAFTA -an established framework to work under any electoral scenario- will no longer be there. Mexico is living a completely new political reality.
The rhetorical attacks on trade matters and, particularly, NAFTA that President Trump launched since his campaign in 2016 and his insistence on the possibility of cancelling it, has had a decisive impact on Mexican politics. By eliminating the “untouchable” character of the deal within Mexico, the certainty that emanated from it has also evaporated. Even if NAFTA were to continue (in my opinion, the most likely scenario), the damage already inflicted is enormous- as the high domestic political costs that a withdrawal at Mexico’s behest would have entailed no longer exist.