Speaking this week with The Globe and Mail, Mexico’s foreign affairs minister recalled the unpleasant surprise that led President Enrique Pena Nieto to cancel a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump shortly after the latter’s inauguration.
“I was in Washington, and we had some very constructive meetings on different topics with the White House staff,” Luis Videgaray explained. On trade, on immigration, Mr. Videgaray – a former finance minister whose return to cabinet in January was apparently based on perceived ability to work with the new administration – thought he was making headway in preparation for the two presidents’ sit-down.
So he was caught off guard the next morning, when Mr. Trump pronounced via Twitter that unless Mexico was willing to pay for a border wall to help keep Mexicans out of the United States, his meeting with Mr. Pena Nieto would be pointless – leaving the Mexican President, already under domestic fire for trying to play nice with Mr. Trump, little choice but to pull the plug.
It was an anecdote that passingly touched upon one of the biggest problems for all countries, Canada included, in trying to deal with the Trump administration during its chaotic early days: At any given moment, it is impossible to know whether officials with whom they are speaking actually have the ability to deliver on their promises. And if they do then, they might not by the next morning.
For Canada, that uncertainty is less fraught than for Mexico and other countries Mr. Trump is inclined to target with punitive policies. But as Ottawa seeks to advance or protect its interests on an array of issues – from the resolution of the ongoing softwood lumber dispute to the broader renegotiation of North American free-trade agreement (NAFTA) provisions to border traffic and security – it makes for an important caveat to the generally positive reviews for how Justin Trudeau’s government has handled relationship-building.
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