Mexico City — A diplomatic standoff over who will pay for the wall that President Donald Trump wants to build along the United States' southern border has put the Mexican plastics industry on a crisis footing.
“Very tough times lie ahead for my country,” Emanuel Ortiz, the CEO of Grupo Industrial Ortiz, which claims to be the world's largest producer of polypropylene raffia woven sacks and similar products.
He worries about Trump administration threats to heavily tax imports of manufactured goods from Mexico to pay for the wall, despite the existence of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Sean Spicer, Trump's press secretary, told reporters Jan. 26 that a 20 percent tariff on goods from Mexico was one of the possible solutions in paying for the wall.
NAFTA, signed by the U.S., Canada and Mexico, has been in force since 1994. Two-way trade between Mexico and the United States in 2016 was worth in excess of $600 billion, according to K. Alan Russell, CEO of a prominent maquiladora management services company, whose clients include plastics processors.
Trump wants to renegotiate NAFTA or withdraw from it altogether.
However, Russell, who co-founded the Tecma Group of Cos. Inc. in El Paso, Texas, in 1986, said that that's “absolutely not going to happen under any circumstance.” He argued that the treaty has been too successful to be discarded and that Trump is merely posturing.
Francisco de Caso Peláez, a former president (2014-2016) of national plastics industry association Anipac, said Mexico is facing a crisis with Trump.
“But Mexico has weathered many crises before,” he said, and would do so again. Anipac stands for Asociación Nacional de Industrias del Plástico AC.
Anipac Secretary Eduardo de la Tijera noted that Caso's comments do not reflect the association's position.
Mexico's politicians, intellectuals and business people disagree on what will happen next. Jorge Castañeda Gutman, a former foreign minister, described the relationship between Mexico and its neighbor as being at its lowest ebb in his 38 years of public life.
Historian Enrique Krauze Kleinbort described Trump as a “bully” and a “monster” and called the current situation Mexico's worst crisis since the American-Mexican war of 1846-1848.