What does AMLO mean for the China-Mexico relationship?

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Andrés Manuel López Obrador (invariably known as AMLO) did even better than expected in Sunday’s elections in Mexico. When he is inaugurated in December, it will be with a strong mandate (53% of the vote) and his coalition will have a comfortable majority in Congress. But (per Title VIII Art 135) his Morena party alone will not have a big enough majority to change the constitution, so recent reforms like in the energy sector might remain untouched.

The first-elected mayor of Mexico City and perennial presidential candidate, AMLO is better described as a Mexican nationalist rather than a leftist. His advisor are broadly divided into two camps: pragmatists, notably the majority of his future cabinet members; and the radicals, sidelined for now but who still have access to the president-elect’s ear. And his collaboration as mayor with businessmen like Carlos Slim shows that he’s not a dyed-in-the-wool anti-capitalist.

Despite fears that they would immediately begin antagonizing each other, AMLO and US President Donald Trump promised to have a constructive relationship. The suggestion of Lingnan University economics professor Jesús Seade Helú to join the Mexican NAFTA negotiating team indicates that AMLO is willing to try to work towards a compromise with his neighbor to the north.

While the peace between Trump and AMLO lasting is probably unlikely, the more interesting question may be: What does AMLO mean for China-Mexico relations? Since Donald Trump took office, we've noticed a bilateral uptick in the efforts to strengthen and expand the relationship. On broad political grounds, AMLO and China share a common antagonist, so from that standpoint, they should remain friends. The question really comes down to the economics and whether the "pragmatists" or the "radicals" hold more sway in the government. Some of the questions that that struggle will determine:

  • AMLO last week threatened some light import-substitution, saying that hats and shoes should be made in Mexico, not Asia. Will he become more protectionist?

  • What does AMLO do in response to the US? As the more sensationalist headlines ask: “Can Mexico and China make an economic alliance against Trump?"

  • Mexico has pursued other options (TPP, Pacific Alliance, a free trade agreement with China) as a response to concerns about US commercial policy and the future of NAFTA. Will AMLO continue that pro-trade push? Even when it conflicts with his protectionist views on the Mexican agriculture sector? Even if he does — will it be enough?

  • Further to that end, will a nationalist AMLO bring Mexico into the Belt and Road Initiative, as Chinese Ambassador Qiu Xiaoqi encourages?

  • China has asked Mexico to pay $600m for cancelling the the México-Querétaro High Speed Rail project in 2014. AMLO's approach to this sensitive issue could color the whole bilateral relationship. What will he do?

  • Investment from China, Korea, and Japan has been strongly focused on the automotive cluster in Mexico’s Bajío. Will uncertainty about AMLO or protectionism from Mexico slow that down?

  • What does AMLO do if (when?) the Mexican economy — which will still be completely dependent on a US economy at the top of the business cycle — slows down?

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China — LAC

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India — LAC

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Tourism Australia Hopes for Better Connectivity with Latin America — LAHT
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GCC — LAC

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