Mexico’s Midterm Elections And US-Mexico Relations

June 7, 2021 by Daniel Mollenkamp
Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador thumbs up after voting in congressional, state and local elections in Mexico City, Sunday, June 6, 2021. Mexicans on Sunday were electing the entire lower house of Congress, almost half the country's governors and most mayors in a vote that will determine if Obrador's Morena party gets the legislative majority. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

One of the largest elections in Mexico’s history, widely described as a referendum on the president and the future of Mexico, took place over the weekend.

Preliminary results show that although it will remain dominant, the president’s party is projected to lose its absolute majority in the lower house of Congress, which will prevent the president from passing major legislative and constitutional reforms without cooperation from other parties, according to reporting from The New York Times. That may also harm the president’s ability to return Mexico’s energy sector to state control, they also reported.

Prior to the election, the president and his National Regeneration Movement had majorities in both chambers of the legislature.

A former ambassador hinted that, now that the election has occurred, there could also be some future strife between the U.S. and Mexico.

Foreign and trade policy considerations took a back seat to domestic issues for voters, indicated Arturo Sarukhan, former ambassador of Mexico to the U.S. and president of Sarukhan + Associates, over email in the days leading up to the election.

“Nonetheless, from the outset [López Obrador and his] government’s actions have impacted a range of U.S. interests, from investments and energy policy to security collaboration and the resilience of North American supply chains,” he said.

A populist who pushed for the “Fourth Transformation” of Mexico, a move to disempower what he describes as its political-economic elite, critics also say that President Andrés Manuel López Obrador threatens the checks and balances of the country and that he has over-centralized power in the presidency, knocked around the courts, and silenced the media and other channels of public information.

The election amounts to a referendum on the president himself, Sarukhan said.

One area of concern to some American observers is the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, which has been in place for a couple of years.

Mexico represents one of America’s largest trading partners. In 2020, Mexico was the second largest merchandise trade partner, according to information from the U.S. Congressional Research Service. The U.S. also represents the largest export market for goods, as about 80% of Mexico’s exports go to the U.S.

López Obrador has remained careful to ensure that the USMCA brings in the economic growth for Mexico that he needs, Sarukhan said.

“Regardless of the outcome on Sunday, López Obrador will likely double down on his pet projects and pet peeves, with more strident nationalistic positions, which could bode ill for future U.S.-Mexico cooperation generally and for a growing inability to silo off the USMCA from contamination as he selectively picks fights on non-trade related issues (with the exception of energy and renewables) with the Biden administration,” Sarukhan said when asked about the possible impact of the election on the USMCA just before the election.

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