Trump isn’t even president yet and China is already moving in on Mexico

China and Mexico have been talking about getting closer for years, yet the results have so far been modest.
China and Mexico have been talking about getting closer for years, yet the results have so far been modest.

By Ana Campoy / Quartz

China and Mexico have been friends for a long time, but after Donald Trump’s win in the US presidential elections, both countries are looking for more in their relationship.

Over the weekend, Chinese ambassador to Mexico Qiu Xiaoqi promised Mexicans his country is standing by them through the uncertain times ahead. His comments were made during a press conference to launch a year of cultural festivities to celebrate the two countries’ 45 years of diplomatic relations. A day later, the two countries signed an agreement to expand food shipments from Mexico to China. Separately, Chinese oil major CNOOC made two handsome bids for contracts to explore Mexico’s offshore oil fields, and won.

“This means that they see Mexico as a trustworthy country,” said a beaming Pedro Joaquín Coldwell, Mexico’s energy secretary.

As the two main targets of Trump’s anti-globalization tirades, China and Mexico have a lot to commiserate about. The president-elect’s talk of tearing up trade deals, starting trade wars and closing borders irks both countries, which have big stakes on international trade. Strengthening their ties is a symbolic snub to Trump’s vision of the world.

Plus, both countries could benefit economically. Latin America is already a big piece of China’s international expansion strategy, and Mexico is one of the region’s largest markets. In turn, Mexico could use some Chinese investment at a time when it desperately needs to diversify its US-heavy portfolio.

But before they get carried away with the potential geopolitical and economic boon of closer cooperation, a few words of caution, via Enrique Dussel Peters, who runs the China-Mexico Studies Center at Mexico’s National Autonomous University. “Given the differences with Trump, today it’s popular to postulate that China is going to be a solution for Mexico,” he said. “That could be, but today there are no concrete conditions for that.”

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