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Carlos Slim gave Mexico a pep talk on going up against a “great negotiator” like Donald Trump

Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim
Reuters/Edgard Garrido
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  • Ana Campoy
By Ana Campoy

Deputy editor, global finance and economics

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Usually reclusive Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim felt it his patriotic duty to hold a press conference Jan. 27 to address his nation’s freaked-out state after a week of a Donald Trump presidency.

In his first seven days in office, the new US president has ordered the construction of a border wall between the US and Mexico, passed a slew of anti-immigrant policies, created a diplomatic crisis with its southern neighbor via Twitter, and then patched things up—somewhat.

“Don’t worry” was Slim’s main message during a lengthy press conference in which he continuously referred to Trump’s 2015 book Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again. All those shocking statements Trump regularly makes? They’re just part of his negotiating style, he explained to his countrymen. It’s in the book.

“Trump is not ‘Terminator,’” he said. “He’s ‘Negotiator.’”

“The worst thing to do is to get angry,” he said at another point. “He may be provoking to negotiate.” And as long as those negotiations are not done, “everything remains the same.”

The pep talk made for yet another surreal development in the aftermath of Trump’s inauguration: Mexico’s richest man turned national cheerleader in chief. Slim, who amassed his Forbes-list-worthy fortune on the back of his country’s weak anti-trust laws, wasn’t just rooting for Mexico, but for its beleaguered president, Enrique Peña Nieto. “We have to back the Mexican president to defend our national interests,” he said.

He sees huge upside for Mexico if Trump achieves the kind of economic growth he has promised. Personally, he said, his businesses in the US stand to win if Trump carries out plans to cut taxes.

Slim also pointed out that Mexico is in a strong position to sit down with the new tenant in the White House, who he described as intelligent, with common sense. Trump may be harping on the US’s trade deficit with Mexico and the migration of jobs south of the border, but millions of American consumers benefit from cheaper “Made-in-Mexico” goods, he pointed out. The US also depends on Mexican labor. “Even the wall is going to have to be built by Mexicans,” he said.  ”Who else is going to do it?”

“We have to occupy ourselves, instead of lamenting ourselves,” he said.

📬 A periodic dispatch from the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly in NYC.

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