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Angry members of Congress told the US president he had abused executive power by invoking a national emergency over Mexico and demanded a rethink before it was too late. This was in Washington not last week but in January 1995.
What irked Capitol Hill then was Bill Clinton’s decision to bypass stiff congressional opposition and loan Mexico $20bn of American money to help pull its economy out of crisis.
The US-led bailout was part of a bipartisan diplomatic effort spanning almost three decades, beginning with the negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement at the start of the 1990s. The aim was to overcome more than a century of mistrust and bring Mexico closer to its big northern neighbour as a trusted and prospering ally.
The policy produced results. By 2018, Mexico was the US’s third biggest trading partner, just behind Canada, with $678bn of business done between the two nations. US companies have $110bn invested in Mexico, around 1.5m Americans living there and more than 11m Mexican immigrants call the US home.
Donald Trump’s sudden and unexpected threat in an evening tweet on May 30 to impose punitive tariffs on all Mexican exports within 11 days marked a dramatic shift in that policy of rapprochement. The tariffs were to start at 5 per cent and rise each month to 25 per cent unless Mexico dramatically cut migration to the US border.
“Our chargé down there didn’t know whether to kill himself or jump off the building,” one former senior US official said, with a sigh. “There’s a growth of real disgust in Mexico at the way Trump is treating them.”
Mr Trump backed down just as suddenly on Friday night, less than three days before the tariffs were due to be imposed, … Read More...