Long after it appeared Donald Trump had lost all hope of fulfilling his promise to force Mexico to pay for his beloved border wall, a new opportunity has emerged.
Mexico suddenly owes the U.S. a hefty favor after the latest OPEC+ meeting, and we all know the favor Trump will demand.
After painstaking negotiations, OPEC finally agreed to a supply cut to try and boost a tumbling oil price. The deal looked like it might collapse when Mexico balked at the scale of the supply reduction – until the United States offered to cover a portion of Mexico’s share .
OPEC wanted Mexico to cut 400,000 barrels a day, and the U.S. – which is desperate to prop up energy prices due to its status as the world’s largest producer – agreed to cut its daily production by 250,000 bbls on top of Mexico’s proposal of 100,000.
As a self-proclaimed artisan dealmaker, it seems unlikely that President Trump will let this one slide without leveraging Mexico’s debt into a political victory.
Speaking at the coronavirus task force meeting, Trump made it clear he intends on calling in this favor in the future:
The United States will help Mexico along, and they’ll reimburse us some time at a later date when they are prepared to do so.
It is likely not a coincidence that the border was all Trump talked about in the lead-up to his comments about the supply cut.
He claimed it’s currently 168 miles long, which would suggest progress is rapid as there were only 93 miles complete in December .
So will he put the pinch on Mexico to pick up the tab? Unfortunately for the president’s defenders, probably not.
Current estimates for the full wall are as high as $11 billion, which means about $20 million a mile .
The tourism and energy reliant Mexican economy is in dire straits – which is why they resisted oil production cuts. Much like the United States, Mexico is struggling with a massive wave of layoffs amid coronavirus-related shutdowns.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) apparently has a great working relationship with Trump . During today’s press conference, Trump had plenty of warm words for his Mexican counterpart.
If Trump could get Mexico to pay for even a brick of his border wall, it would be a tremendous PR victory for a White House desperate to fulfill campaign promises ahead of the 2020 election .
But given the state of Mexico’s finances, it looks improbable that he’ll secure anything more than a token gesture.