Brazil may be hot and Mexico not in the eyes of most of the world. But, says Jorge G. Castañeda, the Mexican political analyst and former foreign secretary: “There’s only two things in which Brazilians are infinitely better than we Mexicans: one is football, and the other is spinning yarns about their own successes.”
Mexico’s economy, led by manufacturing exports, has grown faster in recent years than Brazil’s, which is based on commodities. The insistence of President Felipe Calderón on a war against organised crime that has cost 50,000 lives has “generated a perception of a debacle in Mexico that doesn’t square with the economic and social reality”, says Castañeda.
And Mexico’s manufacturing exports are hurting Brazil, alleges Alessandro Teixeira, the Brazilian trade minister, who complains that Mexican auto exports to Brazil have ballooned by 250 per cent in January and February compared with the same period of last year.
Which is why Brazil is calling for a halt in the vehicle trade accord between the two countries. Teixeira, however, added: “This is not a protectionist measure.”
Teixeira’s Mexican counterpart, Bruno Ferrari, hopes to reach a deal on the issue next week but maintains that Brazil will have to give some ground. More than just a little ground, say some Mexican politicians and commentators who claim that Brazil is spinning another yarn, this time about its alleged hard luck rather than its successes.
From 2003 to 2010 Brazil built up a trade surplus of $12.4bn through the auto accord, before registering its first deficit last year, says Rogelio Ramírez de la O, director of the Ecanal business consultancy and the right-hand man on the economy of the leftwing presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
“International trade agreements should be winners for both sides and not for just one of them,” says Ramírez de la O. “That was the philosophy that allowed Mexico to accept vehicles with outdated technology from Brazil in the early years of the agreement.”
If Brazil won’t keep to the basis of the original agreement, it should put it in its pipe and smoke it, argues Ramírez de la O.
Ferrari did not take such a strongly held view but he did say in a press conference that “whatever Brazil is asking for, Mexico will be asking for from Brazil. This should be reciprocal.”