On December 13th, the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, in conjunction with Columbia University’s Institute of Latin American Studies and supported by NYU’s Mexican Student Association, hosted a panel discussion that delved into what Trump’s presidency means for Latin America. The discussion was led by Global Distinguished Professor of Politics and Latin American and Caribbean Studies Jorge Castañeda, and the panel also included John H. Coatsworth, Provost at Columbia University, and Arturo A. Valenzuela, Senior Latin America Advisor at Covington & Burling LLP and former Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs in the U.S. Department of State.
With over 150 attendees, it is clear that the need for academic spaces to discuss the reality and feasibility of Trump’s campaign promises is extremely relevant. This event discussed the deeper implications that President-Elect Trump might have on the region, with the panelists providing their expert opinions on the subject. Castañeda kicked off the conversation, and believes that for Mexico, “the Trump presidency is an unmitigated disaster.” He continued, stating that the Mexican government, and other Latin American countries, should take a hardline approach against Trump, especially hot button issues like renegotiating free trade agreements, mass deportations, and in the case of Mexico, the proposed border wall.Coatsworth and Valenzuela provided a somewhat more optimistic view of US-Latin American relations under Trump. Coatsworth believes that Latin America will not be a top priority during Trump’s first term, and that the good news is that “no one in Trump’s inner circle…knows very much about Latin America or has ever been there for a very long time.” However, Coatsworth warned that the dismantling of NAFTA would prove devastating for the US. Otherwise, Coatsworth feels that Trump will focus on domestic issues far more than foreign ones, and that events in Latin America, unless major, will not interest Trump’s officials. Although Valenzuela considers himself an academic, his perspective as former Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs in the U.S. Department of State provided an interesting lens to view the incoming President’s potential policies. Valenzuela, who personally worked on creating NAFTA under the Clinton administration, believes that Trump withdrawing from NAFTA would be extremely detrimental to US industry, and would in fact eliminate jobs. Valenzuela stated, “[For Trump] to end the NAFTA relationship with these extraordinary production chains…that are taking place would be nothing but shooting himself in the foot.”
The questions and takeaways from this discussion were enlightening, however, as Coatsworth said at the event, it is still completely unknown what Trump will do and the views that Castañeda, Coatsworth, and Valenzuela discussed are purely theoretical. Trump will officially be inaugurated at the 45th President of the U.S. on January 20th, 2017, and only time will tell what his impact will be in the region and the world.
A full recording of the event is available below.
Additional news coverage of the event is available here: