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A 1,000-mile step back for US and Mexico

Herrera Pahl Claudia Kommentarbild App
Claudia Herrera-Pahl
January 23, 2017

Donald Trump hasn't attacked any other country as fiercely as the US' southern neighbor, Mexico. It's time the economic partners of the NAFTA free trade zone demanded a change of course, says Claudia Herrera-Pahl.

USA Mexiko Donald Trump Besuch Pressekonferenz
Image: Reuters/H. Romero

Can one man single-handedly put an end to decades of laborious rapprochement? That's exactly what Donald Trump, the newly elected president of the United States, wants to do with Mexico. If he's allowed to press ahead, his inauguration could usher in a new era of US-Mexican relations – an era characterized primarily by crassness and incivility. A crassness as great as the 1,000-mile wall that Donald Trump wants to erect along the Mexican border.

It's very unlikely that at the age of 70, Trump will change his personality and style. It remains to be seen whether the USA's democratic structures will hone his diplomatic sensibility, and whether he learns the rudiments of international etiquette. However, anyone who believes that Trump's threats and insults will confine themselves solely to his Mexican neighbors is very much mistaken.

Common history

The United States of America didn't exist in a bubble of its own. The greatness and allure of the United States, both in the past and in the present, has its roots in many countries, including Mexico. In the Mexican-American war of 1846 to 1848, the United States seized riches from Mexico that enabled it to become a continental power: numerous oil wells in Arizona, gold and silver deposits in California, and the ports on the Pacific coast.

Herrera Pahl Claudia Kommentarbild App
DW Latin America expert Claudia Herrera-Pahl

This too is a reason why the United States, this bulwark of democracy and freedom, owes it to the whole world, and especially its southern neighbors, to act in a just and exemplary fashion. Trump's wall stands for exactly the opposite. It stands for the official promotion of discrimination and racism. This is a break with all civilized forms of behavior.

Build bridges, not walls

On the other side is a closely integrated economic group. Especially since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Mexico, the US and Canada was signed in 1994, investment in Mexico by American companies has consistently risen. The Mexicans and their economic partners now have a duty to call for a respectful and secure partnership. They have a responsibility directly proportional to their profit. Now it's their turn to take to the streets, as millions of women did on Saturday – not only in the United States. Now is the time to demand bridges, not walls.