By Julio Espinoza, Staff Writer
On Wednesday, August 31, U.S. Republican candidate Donald Trump traveled to Mexico City to meet with President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico in a move that analysts are still trying to decipher. Perhaps both Peña Nieto and Trump were trying to scratch each others’ backs, with the former trying to regain legitimacy after a series of corruption scandals (the latest being the reported plagiarism of his bachelor’s dissertation), and the latter trying to boost his deflating poll numbers.
Some argue that senior members of the Mexican cabinet asked Trump to fly down to Mexico City to discuss the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Apparently the raison d’état was to reduce the country risk of Mexico and prevent an economic crisis in the case that Trump makes it to the White House and implements protectionist trade measures against Mexico and Canada.
Trump has campaigned largely on a platform of xenophobia (not only against Mexico but also against other countries and civilizations like the Chinese and Muslims). For instance, Trump has promised to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico and to create a database of Muslims living in the U.S. He has also stated that he would withdraw the U.S. from the Transpacific Partnership and renegotiate and potentially leave the NAFTA. He has even endorsed the violation of human rights treaties by championing techniques such as waterboarding (and worse). He has threatened to let Europe pay for their own security against an expansionist and aggressive Russia.
The more Trump campaigns, the more the U.S. image in the world is plummeting. He has been able to alienate and concern close allies of our country such as Mexico, Europe and Saudi Arabia with his politically incorrect comments. The list of offenses is never-ending, but one of his comments stands out for its inflammatory nature. Trump has argued that China and Mexico are stealing jobs from U.S. workers, a classic mercantilist case study for many of us. He even commented in February that “Mexico is going to become the next China on a smaller level.”
We know that most of the time he is wrong, but in this case he might have a point. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, in 2030 China will surpass the U.S. nominal GDP, and in 2050 Mexico will be the 5th largest economy in the world. At the same time the European allies of our country will see a contraction in their economic and political power. This has been named the “rise of the rest” by expert Fareed Zakaria in his book The Post American World. He argues that we are “moving into a post-American world defined and directed from many places and many people.”
If the current international system is changing, what will our generation do to maintain the world order that we inherited from our grandparents, a world order of democracy, security, free trade and human rights, a world order that Trump wants to trump? As graduate students at one of the most prestigious schools of international trade in the world, we need to engage in a dialogue of civilizations to eradicate prejudice and promote world peace by mutual understanding, trade and cooperation. We all are hurting from the unevenness of globalization, but antagonizing our partners and allies will not help our country’s perceived legitimacy in the world. America has always been great and we all need to make sure the world still looks to us for answers in dangerous times. For that we need to engage in a dialogue of educated policy options between civilizations, and not in an exchange of insults that diminsh the world leadership of the U.S.