In the News

Source: Houston Chronicle; By Lomi Kriel; January 20, 2017

The United States has always been a bit of a bully when it comes to Mexico, seizing Texas and California from it in a bitter war memorialized in that country's national anthem.

Over the last few decades, however, the neighbors' relationship has matured, more teenage posturing than playground fist fights, as the countries sharing the world's busiest border work closely on trade and security. When Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain suggested an electric fence on the Mexican border in 2011, it spurred such outrage that he quickly backtracked, saying, "That's not a serious plan."

Today the two couldn't be at a more different place, and it is Texas that is ground zero for much of the conflict.

President Donald Trump, who took office Friday, began his campaign by likening Mexicans to rapists and promising that country would pay for a border wall. He vowed to deport immigrants here illegally, block Mexican remittances, and redo the North American Free Trade Agreement, credited for revamping Mexico's economy. Since the election, such rhetoric hasn't slowed, with Trump's rebuke this month of car companies building plants there plunging the peso to its weakest in two decades.

"Mexico has taken advantage of the United States," he said this month. "It's not going to happen anymore."

It's all cause for serious concern in Mexico as the United States is by far its largest trading partner, and top officials will meet with senior members of Trump's administration this week. But the prospect of how his presidency might act on Mexico is also worrying business leaders in Texas, whose leading export destination is its southern neighbor. Many say they are working behind the scenes to convince the Trump team that Mexico is not China and should be treated as an ally, not an enemy.

"We have to appreciate and we have to respect our Mexican southern border," said Rick Figueroa, a Houston businessman on Trump's Hispanic advisory council. "I don't think we can ignore (Mexico) and say, 'Hey, we're the big bully. You have to do what we say. If you don't like it, you don't like it.' I think that's a big error … if Mexico loses, we lose too."

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