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Julián Castro with former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson - Getty Images
Julián Castro with former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. Photo: Getty Images

Who is Biden considering to be his Ambassador to Mexico?

The new administration is rumored to tap old allies for the high-ranking diplomatic role.

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Aside from sharing a 1,954 mile border, the United States and Mexico are two closely-linked countries. 

Hispanics are the largest minority group in the U.S. and most of them are of Mexican descent. According to an analysis by the Pew Research Center, there are 36.6 million people of Mexican origin living in the U.S. as of 2017.

Behind China, Mexico is the largest trading partner of the U.S. They make up 14.3% of America’s total foreign trade as of December 2020. 

Both countries celebrated the signing of the United States  Mexico - Canada Agreement (USMCA) in December 2019. It replaced the 1994 trilateral trade bloc deal called the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), signed under President Bill Clinton. 

NAFTA allowed heavily-subsidized American produce to enter Mexican markets, leaving farmers unable to compete with lower prices. 

Still, members of both parties in the U.S. complained that the agreement made it simple for manufacturing companies to move to Mexico, impacting the lives of Rust Belt workers.  

They were at odds throughout the last four years, but on revising NAFTA, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and former president Donald Trump both firmly agreed. 

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador made his first foriegn trip as head of state when he visited Trump to celebrate the USMCA going into effect last July

Only words of admiration were exchanged between the two leaders on that day but, there were still underlying tensions. 

Both at the time and now, the allied nations had the highest rates of deaths to COVID-19 in the world. This prompted former president Trump to close the border with Mexico for all non-essential travel. 

AMLO was threatened by his American counterpart in Spring 2019 with increased tariffs on Mexican goods, which would have resulted in a trade war. This warning was used to pressure Mexico to stem the flow of Central American migrants attempting to seek asylum in the US. 

In 2021, the challenges that the next U.S. ambassador to Mexico will encounter will be monumental. 

They include helping to control migration from Central America, making sure the new labor regulations in the USMCA are followed, and monitoring the vaccination process in Mexico so that mutual trade and tourism can be expanded as the pandemic draws to an end. 

President Joe Biden has been in office for over a month, but he has yet to nominate a replacement for former ambassador Christopher Landau. 

John S. Creamer, a career diplomat, is currently serving as the Charge d’affaires in the neighboring country.  

Biden’s Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, is someone who believes in fortifying the relationship between the three North American giants. On Feb. 26, Blinken made his first virtual visit to Mexico and Canada to discuss reopening the border for non-essential travel. 

Blinken also forms part of a task force working with the departments of State and Health and Human Services to reunite families separated at the border because of Trump’s “Zero Tolerance” policy. 

President Biden has already tapped a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico under the Obama administration, Roberta Jacobson, to form part of his National Security Council. 

As the new coordinator for the Southwestern border, she will help implement the administration’s asylum policies to speed up the process for migrant families filing claims and waiting in Mexico. 

Jacobson will also work to improve relations between Washington, Mexico and Central American governments. 

In an opinion piece for the Washington Post León Krauze, the lead anchor at Univision’s KMEX station in Los Angeles, says that two experienced politicians of Mexican descent are potential candidates to take on duties that come with being the diplomat to America’s second largest trading partner. 

Julián Castro

The first name was a Democratic candidate for president in 2020 and served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Obama. 

Julián Castro outlined many progressive views towards Latin American foreign policy on the campaign trial, and would bring that same energy to the role. 

His 21st Century ‘Marshall Plan’ for Central America was the third component of his immigration policy. It hoped to emulate the initiative of General George C. Marshall, which helped rebuild and invest in Western Europe after World War II. 

Castro’s plan would have raised aid to the Northern Triangle countries and called for more transparency with their governments to increase stability in the region. 

It recognizes that the U.S. deserves part of the blame for the migrant crisis because of selectively cutting foreign aid, exploiting natural resources in unfavorable trade deals, and supporting military interventions in Latin America. 

“We have to be honest about how the U.S. has a checkered past in some of these countries. We have to acknowledge that, and understand and treat them as sovereign nations and equals. We can’t act like we can dictate to them how they’re going to be led or what’s going to happen in Latin America,” the former presidential candidate told Vox.  

This made him against a military intervention in Venezuela to overthrow President Nicolas Maduro and critical of Trump’s undoing of Obama’s efforts to reopen relations with the island nation of Cuba. 

Castro had detailed views, but lacked foreign policy experience. 

The Texan politician is being rumoured to take on Senator Ted Cruz for his seat in 2024. Being named U.S. ambassador to Mexico may raise his profile again and up the likelihood of him beating Cruz. 

Bill Richardson

Bill Richardson is the other name being touted for the highly-ranked diplomatic position. 

The former governor of New Mexico and 2008 presidential candidate has been out of elected office since 2011, but he would bring international experience to the role.    

While in Congress, Richardson was an avid proponent of NAFTA and gave President Clinton an undisclosed channel to negotiate with Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortri. These efforts made Mexico grant him the Aztec Eagle Award, the country’s highest honor for a foreigner. 

Ahead of leading the U.S. mission to the United Nations, he met with leaders Fidel Castro and Alberto Fujimori, of Cuba and Peru respectively, to advocate for the release of political prisoners

However, progressives may be concerned about the 73 year old’s previous positions on several corporate boards and advisory firms like Kissinger McLarty Associates (headed by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger) and Diamond Offshore Drilling Inc. 

Being associated with the head of State who supported the military coup against socialist Chilean president Salvador Allende in 1973 and with an offshore drilling contractor who opposes new environmental restrictions would hurt his chances of being nominated.    

Two months after Trump took office Richardson told NPR before testifying in front of a Senate subcommittee for the U.S.-Mexico wall that he believed the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico was in a fragile state. 

“Well, my message is because of President Trump's referral of the wall - Mexico's going to pay for it, NAFTA needs to be renegotiated, we're going to deport millions from the U.S. back to Mexico - that the U.S.-Mexico relationship is in the worst shape that I've seen in the last 35 years,” he said. 

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