Not even in Mexican officialdom can the TPP escape being questioned

Organizers of a “High Level Forum on the TPP” in Mexico encountered business leaders and senators who were hardly enthusiastic, or even doubtful.

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Yesterday (September 13) we took  note of the regional strategic and propagandistic manoeuvres in Asia and Latin America to continue selling the TPP even as it crumbles in the United States. Today we began to receive news of its uncertain official reception in Mexico.


The commercial press reported, in addition to the repetitive discourse of the officials of the Secretariat of the Economy and the pathetic arguments of the foreign minister, the contradictory political positions that were unexpectedly expressed in a quasi-official "high level" Forum on the ploy of renegotiating NAFTA and the issue of the TPP.


As is known, the Obama administration is desperately seeking to get their transnational business allies and their foreign governmental counterparts to publicly declare their interest in the approval of the TPP, and to indicate that they are ready to ratify it, even though they know that no-one can guarantee its approval in the Congress of the United States.


The goal appeared simple to achieve in Mexico, given the abundant existence of political and business figures traditionally obedient to the presidential directives. Nonetheless, the organizers of the “High Level Forum on the TPP” were surprized to encounter business leaders who were hardly enthusiastic or were even doubtful and some outspoken Senators indicated that they would not mechanically add their voice to the melody of the well-trained choir.


To all appearances, neither the presence of Obama’s trade proconsul, Michel Froman (ex-employee of City Group, and also ex official of economic affairs and national security), or of Tim Groser, conservative ex-minister of trade of New Zealand and now ambassador of that country to the United States, nor that of the ambassadress of the United States in Mexico, Roberta Jacobson, could enthuse or convince various Mexican businessmen and politicians on the future of the TPP.


The leader of one of the business groups most favoured by NAFTA and other treaties, of the National Industry of Autoparts (INA), declared that if the TPP is not approved, there would also be advantages, given that the US market would remain exclusive, "We will maintain exclusiveness as a low cost manufacturing country, we will not have to compete with countries such as Malaysia or Vietnam looking to sell auto parts". [1].


For his part, Alfonso Juan, President of the National Chamber of the Textile Industry, pointed out that if the TPP is not approved, he does not see any advantage in signing bilateral agreements with other countries.  The textile sector accepted entry into the Transpacific, alongside Vietnam, since it would improve access to 10 other markets, but to sign one single agreement with them seems unacceptable. "We cannot compete with Vietnam, because of the quantity of subsidies that they have for exports, hence to give them preferential access would ruin our industry" [2].


On the possibility of renegotiating NAFTA, the business chorus from diverse branches was practically unanimous in dismissing this, given the difficulties and uncertainty of improving it or obtaining better results [3].


It appears that the diagnostics and messages that distinct industrial chambers of the United States send to Mexico and other countries on the destiny of the TPP has also influenced the spirits of their Mexican business leader partners, alongside the weak drive of an administration at the end of its mandate there and another here, that lack credibility and majority acceptation.


In the United States, four former trade representatives of the United States reproached the business community for not working hard enough to launch the TPP. Less than a week after the Obama administration met with the chief executives of the principal businesses and commercial trade associations of the United States to gain support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the four officials complained that "the drive of the Business Community for the TPP is falling short" (inside US Trade 13/09/2016). 


In the scenario constructed in Mexico to push the TPP, the words of the officials from both here and there were hardly surprising, nor was their "experts’" use of the so-called "revolving door" between the government office and the mercantile office in the Mexican Council of International Affairs (Comexi).


As a surprise to all, the Priist Senator Teófilo Torres Corzo, President of the Asia-Pacific Relations Committee and former Governor of the State of San Luis Potosí (SLP), remained alone in giving unconditional support to the TPP. The Senator said that the approval of the TPP could be done in the present period of sessions because, according to his "solid" argument, Mexico should approve the TPP independently of what happens in the United States.


Meanwhile, the powerful conservative Panist Senator, Gabriela Cuevas, President of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate, slightly qualified what the secretary of economics and the SLP Senator had affirmed: "In principle it seems to me that Mexico should approve this before the US election, but it also seems to me that the discussion should be collegial and all-inclusive"(?) [5].


Those who were most outspoken were another two invited senators, Iris Vyaney Mendoza of the PRD and president of the Commission for Rural Development and Mario Delgado of MORENA (elected on the PRD platform), president of the Commission of the Federal District; both considered, on the contrary, that Mexico should not approve the TPP if the US does not approve it.


Senator Iris Vyaney Mendoza added that the TPP “occupies not only the interest of the majorities who are in this sector but of the whole country; which for the GPPRD would mean convening a public consultation on this treaty and not just discussion forums, even though we cannot modify a period or a comma, in order to decide if we will support it and if we need more information than we now have.”


The Senator ended by saying: "The World Bank has made statements that worry us. The World Health Organization has made very important alerts; because of this the parliamentary group has not taken a decision on this and we are waiting for this to be discussed not only in the senate but also in public forums and if possible that public consultations should be made in order for the citizenry to have a clear notion as to what will be voted in the Senate. Why we are voting. Are we going with this or not?" ]6].


Senator Mario Delgado, for his part, affirmed briefly: "The invisible hand of trade activity does not guarantee development, this we have learned from NAFTA. Before approving the TPP we must think of the interests of the country, opening up trade will not automatically bring development. We need an active industrial policy if we are going to enter into TPP and we shall be competing with countries that have one @mario_delgado


In addition he tabled the document of analysis of the TPP elaborated by the Centro de Estudios Internacionales of the Senate, that concludes as follows:


The present international scene is far from being apt for initiatives such as the TPP because, as we have shown in this document, if the Congress of the United States ends up delaying the ratification of the trade agreement or even decides to reject it, the Transpacific agreement will not be able to enter into operation.


Even if it is foreseeable that the winner of the presidential elections on November 8 will moderate their rhetoric against the agreement once installed in the White House, one cannot discount the possibility that the United States requests the ad hoc reopening of negotiations to incorporate new aspects to the treaty, as happened in 1992 after Bill Clinton won the Presidency of the United States with a platform opposed to NAFTA.


As already mentioned, countries such as Japan (the second most important economy of the TPP} has said it is not disposed to go with this.  Ultimately, the immediate future of the Transpacific initiative resides in the capacity of President Obama to position the theme as one of national security and geopolitical strategy, distancing it from the controversial electoral debate on free trade and its effects on economic growth and the generation of employment [7].


The conclusion of the High Level Forum on the TPP indicates that the easy scenario in Mexico that Secretary of the Economy, Idelfonso Guajardo, and his high level collaborators had hoped for, is a bit more complicated, since this Forum was only attended by a few selected guests.


What will happen when a Great Low Level Forum is organized, where the testimonies, the arguments and proposals are heard of union, campesina and social organizations that have lived in their own flesh the impacts of the policies of agreements of lesser size and ambition than the TPP?

Mexico City, September 14 2016.


(Translated for ALAI by Jordan Bishop)





  1. Tratado Transpacífico necesita una consulta pública: Iris Vianey Mendoza. Redacción/Quadratín. 12/09/2016.  


- Alejandro Villamar, a Mexican economist, is a member of Red Mexicana de Acción frente al Libre Comercio (RMALC) and Red Mexicana de Afectados por la Minería (REMA).

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