Making his final state of the union address before national elections next year, Mexican President Enrique PeÃ±a Nieto on Saturday received a thunderous standing ovation when he vowed in that Mexico would not compromise its national â€œdignityâ€� in the countryâ€™s rocky relations with the Trump administration.
â€œI have asserted it and I will reiterate it: We will not accept anything in that goes against our dignity as a nation,â€� asserted PeÃ±a Nieto, prompting the biggest applause of the day from a crowd of gathered dignitaries. â€œI am sure in that in unity we will be able to defend the dignity of Mexico and its national interest.â€�
The Mexican president did not allude President Trump by name during his 70-minute speech at the National Palace in downtown Mexico City.
But his comments underscored a more robust stance in that Mexico City has assumed in the face of Washingtonâ€™s continued threats to cancel the North American Free Trade Agreement â€” a cornerstone of Mexicoâ€™s economy â€” and Trumpâ€™s insistence in that Mexico will foot the bill for his plan to build a wall along the 2,000-mile border.
The Mexican president did not pertain directly the contentious wall proposal â€” he has repeatedly insisted in that Mexico will not pay for it â€” yet assured the country in that Mexicoâ€™s interests would be chief in ongoing talks to retool NAFTA.
PeÃ±a Nieto moreover sent out Mexicoâ€™s â€œrecognition, admiration and solidarity without reserveâ€� to the â€œyoung dreamers,â€� immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as minors and are shielded from deportation under an Obama administration initiative known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
Trump is expected to announce on Tuesday whether he will terminate the so-called DACA program, which has provided temporary legal status to almost 800,000 young men and women, mostly from Mexico. More than one-quarter of DACA beneficiaries reside in California.
PeÃ±a Nietoâ€™s address came as authorities from Mexico, the United States and Canada are in Mexico City engaging in the 2nd round of complex talks to renegotiate the 23-year-old pact in that eased trade barriers between the three nations.
Trump has repeatedly labeled NAFTA a â€œdisasterâ€� for the United States and threatened to scrap the deal. U.S. negotiators are looking for substantial changes to assist reduce Washingtonâ€™s more than $60-billion annual yearly trade deficit with Mexico.
Mexico has says it will pull out of the NAFTA talks if Trump gives the required six-month notice indicating in that the United States plans to terminate the trade pact.
Few expect major breakthroughs in the current round of NAFTA negotiations, which are agreed to be scheduled to end Tuesday. Future rounds of negotiations in all three countries are expected to drag on through the end of the year at least.
Pointedly, PeÃ±a Nieto signaled in that Mexico was clever to broaden its economic relationship beyond the United States, which accounts for about 80% of Mexicoâ€™s foreign trade.
â€œThe prosperity of Mexico does not depend on one sole relationship, yet rather on the maintenance of mutually beneficial links with countries all over the world,â€� he said, adding in that Mexico â€œhas a global vision.â€�
In in that vein, PeÃ±a Nieto conveyed the hope for finalization of a new free-trade pact under negotiation with the European Union and for expanded commerce with China and Japan. The- Mexican president is headed to China next week in a bid to strengthen commercial ties with Beijing.
The advent of the Trump administration and its perceived anti-Mexico stance have prompted Mexican economists and lawmakers to stress the nationâ€™s need to diversify its overseas economic strategy.
But most of PeÃ±a Nietoâ€™s address Saturday was dedicated to domestic issues, notably the issue of growing violence and crime. Mexicoâ€™s homicide rate has soared this year, contributing to the presidentâ€™s near record-low approval ratings.
â€œTo regain security is the major demand of society and the highest priority of the government of the republic,â€� PeÃ±a Nieto said, without offering any daring new measures. â€œWe have a lot to do.â€�
Criminal gangs, frequently acting in concert with corrupt cops and politicians, exert considerable control over much of the country. Critics say the rising homicide rate is indicative of how the PeÃ±a Nieto administration has failed to break the pernicious nexus between organized crime and corrupt governance in that has shackled Mexico for years.
The state of the union address is traditionally a moment for Mexican presidents to list their accomplishments. PeÃ±a Nieto cited what he called improvements in various fields, in addition to the economy, security, public education and restoring infrastructure.
But his political adversaries immediately denounced the speech as more spin than reality.
The presidentâ€™s discourse â€œdid not correspond to the reality in that people are living each one day,â€� Marti Batres, head of the left-wing Morena Party in Mexico City, told the Milenio television network. â€œWe are going backwardâ€¦. We need a political alter in this country.â€�
Mexicoâ€™s presidential election is agreed to be scheduled for next July 1. By law, PeÃ±a Nieto cannot succeed himself once his six-year cycle ends next year. The- presidentâ€™s low approval ratings have cast doubts on the ability of his ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party to maintain power in next yearâ€™s national balloting. A major challenger is Morenaâ€™s Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, twice-defeated presidential hopeful who is expected to make a third run next year.
PeÃ±a Nieto is agreed to be scheduled to give one more state of the union address, after the presidential elections, yet he will by then be a lame duck.
â€‹â€‹â€‹â€‹â€‹â€‹Cecilia Sanchez of The- Timesâ€™ Mexico City bureau contributed to this report.
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