NAFTA Negotiations Will Be Affected By Mexico’s Presidential Election

NAFTA negotiations are expected to begin in the months of May or June, 2017 and are bringing high levels of interest from companies manufacturing in Mexico.  As we review the next Mexico presidential election, parties and candidates we find mixed levels of support for willingness to blend Mexico’s interests with currently stated US interests.

Mexico’s presidential election isn’t until summer of 2018, but the issues and candidates are already being discussed both in Mexico and among neighboring countries. The ruling party appears to be waning in popularity, and an anti-establishment candidate is poised to take the country in a very different direction if elected. NAFTA negotiations will be affected.

Leading Candidates

Current Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto, has presided over sweeping reforms that have made the country more open to international cooperation, private sector investment, and a better business atmosphere. Yet, corruption allegations and unrest in the Latin American country have made him and his party rather unpopular in recent months. He is constitutionally ineligible to run again, but analysts predict the successor his party chooses will not win in the 2018 election. In fact, the man most agree is the front-runner for Mexico’s presidential election is not representing any of Mexico’s three major parties.

  • PRI: The PRI was the leading party in Mexico from 1929 to 2000, and returned to power with the election of current President Nieto. However, stunning losses in the recent elections lead many to conclude that this party’s candidate will not win in 2018. Currently, the front runner for the centrist PRI party seems to be Nieto administration official, Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, who has a list of accomplishments to tout fighting organized crime.
  • PAN: The party of recent Mexican president, Felipe Calderon is a center-right party that seems to have a good chance this coming election. The party came out on top in the recent elections that upset the ruling PRI. Questions remain whether or not the party can unite behind Calderon’s wife, Margarita Zavala, who is doing very well in the polls as a front runner for the national race. However, in a climate of frustration with the establishment, she will have to distance herself from her insider image.
  • PRD: The party doing poorest in the polls is the center-left PRD. The man most likely to be their candidate is the current mayor of Mexico City, Miguel Mancera, who will also have to shed his image as a career politician.
  • MORENA: The true wild card in this race is a new party that recently split away from the PRD. They are a left wing movement created by a staunch leftist and anti-reform candidate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Obrador is running on a Mexico-First platform that has been very critical of US President Trump’s rhetoric and could complicate US-Mexico relations if Obrador is elected. Current polling suggests he is indeed a front runner with numbers rivaling or exceeding those for Margarita Zavala. His campaign was given a boost when Trump was elected in the US, and the nation is potentially poised to take a left turn in response to much of Trump’s perceived mistreatment of this NAFTA ally. There is talk of a party alliance with the PRD that would virtually ensure a victory for Obrador, who lost by only a half percent when he first ran in 2006.

Primary Issues Affecting Mexico’s Presidential Election

Among the primary issues facing the Mexican people are crime, corruption, NAFTA negotiations, and Donald Trump. While the ruling PRI party has done well fighting crime and is staunchly in favor of NAFTA – as are most Mexicans – the party is hampered by allegations of corruption and mismanagement. The other parties are vying for the anti-establishment vote, which Obrador and his MORENA seem to have a firm grip on. Obrador has promised to scale back many of Nieta’s reforms and align the country with other leftist movements in Latin America. However, we may see a united center-right movement prevail in Mexico’s presidential election, which would prevent this detour, so long as PAN continues their upward momentum and taps into the country’s desire for real change.

For further information on Presidential elections in Mexico and other subjects affecting NAFTA Negotiations and Manufacturing in Mexico the reader is invited to review our blog at