Felipe Calderon, president of Mexico from 2006-2012, brought a pointed message to Sarasota Wednesday when he spoke at the Ringling College Library Association Town Hall lecture series: Mexico is not the enemy of the United States, and the two countries should work together to be, not only neighbors, but allies.
“If not,” he said at a press conference before the morning talk, “we will suffer in Mexico, but the American people will suffer as well. The only way we can all prosper is by intensifying our mutual relationship.”
Calderon also said at the press conference that President Trump’s pronouncements about abolishing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and building a wall between the two countries has, in Latin America, “damaged in a few months the [improved] reputation that it took the U.S. years to develop.” And he predicted, “unfortunately,” that leftist political movements in Latin American will begin to dominate again as a result of Trump’s rise.
“Plurality is the quality of modern societies that is good,” he said. “To be polarized right now in Mexico and the United States is weakening any chances for either society to prosper.”
Calderon methodically laid out his defense of NAFTA and his “stronger together” approach to the nearly sold-out Town Hall audience at the Van Wezel.
Mexico is second only to Canada as the largest purchaser of American goods, he said. “When President Trump says, ‘Buy American,’ we do—believe that,” he said, remarking that Mexico buys more American goods than China, Japan and the U.K. combined.
U.S.-Mexican trade has increased six-fold since NAFTA was instituted in 1993, to $1.3 billion a day today. Almost seven million American jobs depend on trade with Mexico.
One in four tourists to the United States is Mexican, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, to the tune of 18 million visitors a year (435,000 visits to Florida alone, at an economic impact of $371 million). Those Mexican visitors spend $20 billion annually here.
The border states of both nations together make up the fourth largest economy in the world.
Calderon’s only reference to Trump’s border wall was his reference to China, which is working to expand its economic presence across the globe to supplant the U.S. as the world’s dominant economy. “As China builds roads,” Calderon said, “the U.S. builds walls.”
“We the Mexicans are not the enemy of the United States. We are a powerful ally,” Calderon said. “Don’t lose this partnership. Don’t lose this ally. Don’t lose this great friend.”
Also on Wednesday, Town Hall announced its 2018 series:
Subscription tickets for the 2018 series will go on sale May 1 for RCLA members, and to the public June 15.