The new strategy for US and Mexican diplomats: Stick to the facts and avoid the name “Trump”

Avoiding the elephant in the room
Avoiding the elephant in the room
Image: Reuters/Carlos Barria
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Donald Trump has sent US-Mexico relations into a tailspin. To set them back on track, the countries’ top diplomats avoided any mention of the combative US president when they briefed reporters (link in Spanish) on their first meeting in Mexico today.

It was the first real working session between US and Mexican authorities since Trump took office, and follows a slew of provocations by the new US president. Just a couple of days before the meeting, his administration said it would deport immigrants of all nationalities to Mexico—a proposal that was immediately condemned south of the border.

US secretary of state Rex Tillerson was mum on his boss’s new directive, as he soft-pedaled the growing tension between the two countries: “In a relationship filled with vibrant colors, two strong sovereign countries from time to time will have differences.”

Mexican foreign minister Luis Videgaray was less sanguine. He talked about the “irritation” and “worry” in Mexico over Trump’s policies, and of the “legal impossibility” of one government unilaterally imposing its will.

He implied that going forward, Mexico would focus less on what Trump says on Twitter, and more on what his foreign affairs secretary can agree with Tillerson and his state department.

“To overcome the negative feelings that no doubt prevail today, more than words, what will matter are actions,” he said. Through actions, a word that in Spanish also means “facts,” the US and Mexico will rebuild their relationship to one of “trust, common effort and endearing friendship,” he added.

The only official present who referred to the US president by name was US Homeland Security secretary John Kelly. “President Trump himself has noted the friendship between our nations and the need for us to work together to make our shared border more secure,” he said.

Back in the US, Trump was sounding less committed. “We’re going to have a good relationship with Mexico,” he said during a meeting with manufacturers’ CEOs. “And if we don’t, we don’t.”