A Poised Mexico Sees Trump Anew: a ‘Bluffer’ at the Poker Table

Still, as rumors of the executive order circulated in Washington and Mexico City on Wednesday, President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico called Mr. Trump. And later that night, Mr. Trump issued a statement saying that he was not seeking to withdraw from Nafta, but instead “to bring Nafta up-to-date through renegotiation.”

Mr. Peña Nieto then issued a brief statement of his own, saying he, Mr. Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada had a “shared objective to modernize” the trade agreement.

On Thursday, Mr. Trump said on Twitter that he had received phone calls from Mr. Peña Nieto and Mr. Trudeau and agreed to renegotiate the treaty instead of pulling out.

Mr. Trump had also come under pressure from congressional Republicans and business leaders alarmed by the possibility that he would move hastily toward a withdrawal.

The day’s vicissitudes left many Mexicans with a bit of whiplash — the Mexican peso took a nose-dive — but also with a mild sense of satisfaction that they were finally learning to read the American president.

Photo

An avocado packaging plant in Uruapan, Mexico, last year. Mexico is choosing not to react as quickly to what it sees as President Trump’s bluster on Nafta.

Credit
Ronaldo Schemidt/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Eduardo Bravo, past chairman of the Mexican Entrepreneur Association, said he was relieved by the way the issue had been resolved on Wednesday but warned that there was still a rough road ahead, describing the White House’s behavior as “very schizophrenic.”

“Really, you have to maintain hope and keep working to maintain the relationship,” he said. “There’s a lot of work to do.”

In interviews with politicians, analysts, economists, business leaders and former diplomats, a general sentiment had emerged throughout the day on Wednesday that Mr. Trump’s threat to withdraw from the treaty using an executive order was mostly a piece of political theater — aimed as much at his voting base as at Mexico and Canada — and not something to get terribly worked up about.

Some speculated that the news of the order was a controlled leak intended to gauge the reaction of the other Nafta parties and put them on the defensive.

“The generous analysis would be that he’s playing brinkmanship and trying to up the ante,” said Arturo Sarukhán, a former Mexican diplomat to the United States. “This is a way to sort of rattle the scabbard and say that he’s got a saber in it and say, ‘If you don’t agree to my demands, then I’m going to end up pressing the nuclear button.’”

Still, the news…

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