A new poll from Rasmussen shows that 51 percent of likely American voters want President Trump to use the NAFTA renegotiation process to pressure the Mexican government to do more to fight against illegal immigration and drug trafficking.
In the same survey, Rasmussen found that only 16 percent of likely voters believe that the Mexican government has “been aggressive enough in stopping the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States.” Conversely, a whopping 62 percent said that Mexico has not been tough enough on stopping illegal immigration into the United States.
Trump has been a fierce critic of NAFTA both during his 2016 campaign and his tenure as president. This week on Twitter, the president repeatedly linked the fate of NAFTA to the strength (or rather, the lack thereof) of Mexico’s efforts to stop illegal immigration:
Mexico is doing very little, if not NOTHING, at stopping people from flowing into Mexico through their Southern Border, and then into the U.S. They laugh at our dumb immigration laws. They must stop the big drug and people flows, or I will stop their cash cow, NAFTA. NEED WALL!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 1, 2018
Mexico is making a fortune on NAFTA...They have very strong border laws - ours are pathetic. With all of the money they make from the U.S., hopefully they will stop people from coming through their country and into ours, at least until Congress changes our immigration laws!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 2, 2018
The big Caravan of People from Honduras, now coming across Mexico and heading to our “Weak Laws” Border, had better be stopped before it gets there. Cash cow NAFTA is in play, as is foreign aid to Honduras and the countries that allow this to happen. Congress MUST ACT NOW!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 3, 2018
According to Bloomberg, the Trump administration wants Mexico and Canada to join with the United States in announcing the broad outlines of a new NAFTA treaty at the Summit of the Americas, which begins on April 13th in Peru.
White House officials, including Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, reportedly met this week with Mexican and Canadian representatives to hammer out the details [emphasis mine]:
Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo will travel to Washington for meetings with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Wednesday… Some meetings could also include U.S. presidential adviser Jared Kushner and Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray, who have been managing the relationship between Trump and his Mexican counterpart, Enrique Pena Nieto… Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland will arrive Thursday for her own meetings with Lighthizer, and meetings on Friday may include all three countries, the people said.
Nafta negotiators are working under some political calendar pressure, with elections in Mexico in July and the U.S. in November threatening to complicate the process of reaching a deal and getting it approved by the nations’ lawmakers. Guajardo said last month that negotiations between the countries would need to be concluded before the end of April in order for the agreement to go before the current Mexican Senate and U.S. Congress.
The Nafta process could become trickier if Democrats take control in the U.S. House or Senate, or if leftist Mexican presidential frontrunner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador wins or his Morena party picks up seats in the nation’s upper house.
If Lopez Obrador does win the July 1st presidential election, Trump’s plans to overhaul NAFTA could very well be in jeopardy. The left-wing nationalist candidate currently holds an 18-point lead over his opponents in the race, and his popularity has a lot to do with his open opposition to Trump’s policies towards Mexico.
Earlier this week, Lopez Obrador responded to Trump's flurry of tweets expressing outrage at the Central American illegal alien caravan by riling up potential voters at a campaign rally near the U.S.-Mexico border [emphasis mine]:
Mexico's presidential front-runner launched his campaign close to the U.S. border on Sunday, demanding respect for Mexicans hours after U.S. President Donald Trump again threatened to scrap a key trade pact and erect a wall between the countries.
Striking a nationalistic tone, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador signaled that if he won the July 1 election, he would be less accommodating toward Trump than the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which has lagged in opinion polls over its failure to contain violence and corruption.
"Mexico and its people will not be the pinata of any foreign government," Lopez Obrador said in a speech to thousands of people who jeered and swore at the mention of Trump. The U.S. president is almost universally disliked in Mexico.
"It's not with walls or use of force that you resolve social problems."
Regardless of whether or not Lopez Obrador wins his race, Trump faces steep odds to get everything he wants from the NAFTA negotiations. However, if the president can use threats to step back from the treaty to get a better deal that protects American jobs and requires Mexico to crack down on illegal immigration and drug trafficking, that would be a huge victory for conservatives who strongly believe in restoring law and order to the southern border.