BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Duncan Wood’s suggestion that Texas send a trade mission to Mexico City to try to get President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to change his economic policies is gaining traction.

The director of the Mexico Institute gave a negative assessment of the way AMLO is running the economy when he spoke at a luncheon in McAllen recently. He made similar presentations in Brownsville, Laredo and San Antonio.

In his speech, Wood said Mexico was technically in a recession. However, when asked afterwards by veteran broadcaster and public policy advocate Ron Whitlock, what could be done to improve the situation in Mexico, Wood said that if Gov. Greg Abbott took a trade delegation to Mexico City, he might have some influence.

To continue his part of the conversation, Whitlock is taking Wood’s suggestion and running with it. The founder of The Shepherd Group said he is setting up a steering committee made up of Texas-Mexico border leaders that will visit Mexico City.

Ron Whitlock presents grapefruit from the Rio Grande Valley to Duncan Wood, director of the Mexico Institute.

“I want to thank Duncan Wood for his excellent suggestion about sending a trade mission to Mexico City. We have to move on this,” Whitlock said.

“I listened with great interest to what Mr. Wood said, not only in his presentation but also in my one-on-one interview with him,” Whitlock said.

“He pointed out that Mexico is not getting the foreign direct investment it needs because investors are spooked and that AMLO is not listening to the business community in Mexico. That is not good for our border economy. We need Mexico to be doing well.”

Whitlock is putting together public input hearings in Brownsville, Laredo and hopefully El Paso, in preparation for taking a strong border delegation to Mexico City. He said, following the hearings, his steering committee will be making a presentation to Gov. Abbott at the Headliners Club in Austin.

“I communicated my idea for a ‘Neighbor Helping Neighbor’ trade mission with Governor Abbott’s chief of staff and communications director while they were with Governor Abbott at the World Economic Forum in Europe. President Donald Trump was there, also,” Whitlock said.

“With President Trump about to sign USMCA into law, now is the time to enhance Texas-Mexico relations,” Whitlock added.

Wood gave his speech about the AMLO administration when he spoke at a luncheon hosted by IBC Bank and the Rio Grande Valley Partnership and held at the McAllen Performing Arts Center. Asked later by Whitlock if AMLO would listen to border leaders, Wood said:

“I think the first thing is, this president is stubborn, he is determined. He believes what he believes. What we have seen, though, is that he does respond well to pressure from the United States government.

“So, if we were to see, not just business people but a mission from Texas, led by Governor Abbott, for example, taking down Texas-based business people to talk to him and to say, we are concerned about what is happening in the country, and we think we can help you to do better, I think that is good.”

Wood said that if the United States federal government was to “really inject more energy” into mechanisms like the high-level economic dialogue and and the CEO dialogue, that would be even better.

Wood added: “The opportunity is there. You could have pressure coming from the U.S. side that may actually be more effective than what we are seeing from the Mexican business community today. Send a trade and investment mission because that is what they are looking for. The are looking for people to invest in Mexico right now.”

Another person who believes a Texas trade mission to Mexico City is a good idea is U.S. Rep,. Henry Cuellar. The Laredo Democrat said he was in Mexico City with U.S. Rep. Kevin Brady when the López Obrador administration was trying to renegotiate a contract for a Texas-Mexico natural gas pipeline.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar

“Our message, my message was, hey, we cannot pass NAFTA 2.0 and talk about the rule of law and not be honoring contracts. It sent a message to the American investor community that Mexico was not going to honor contracts. In the end they did fix the pipeline deal,” Cuellar said.

Cuellar said he has looked at Mexico’s economic growth numbers and they are not as good as investors were hoping for.

“I have been looking at the numbers. Commercial trade is increasing a little, but non-commercial has decreased in different areas of the border. I do not want to get into the internal politics of Mexico but I have talked to different business people in Mexico and the U.S. and I will tell you they have a different perspective to what the president is doing.”

Asked if Texas should take a trade delegation to Mexico City, Cuellar said: “Of course, they are always important. Cities do it but I think the State of Texas should do it also, especially now that USMCA is going to signed this coming Wednesday. We have to have more trade missions to Mexico. If Gov. Abbott goes, that will send a strong message to Mexico.”

Another border leader who approves of sending a trade mission to meet with the Mexican president is Mission Mayor Armando O’Caña. He told the Rio Grande Guardian:

“Duncan Wood hit the nail on the head with his suggestion to Ron, for a trade visit and Texas needs to take the lead. For example, the Texas Department of Transportation is currently working with its counterparts in Mexico to create a binational transportation masterplan. Governor Abbott could promote our plan.”

Mission Mayor Armando O’Caña

Asked if he would like to participate in trade delegation to Mexico City, Mayor O’Caña said:

“I would definitely like to be part of that trade mission. I will offer my services to the this effort to help the Governor. It is important the Valley is represented because we are neighbors and what Mexico does has a direct impact on our economic growth.”