The relationship between the three giants of North America has never been a simple one. From wars and interventions, to visas and work agreements, it is clear that Canada, Mexico, and the United States’ closeness makes them de-facto partners.
In 1994, the relationship hit its highest peak with NAFTA, a trade agreement that looked to build strong economic ties between the neighboring countries. Since then, the “three amigos” have had their ups and downs, but the partnership has remained strong.
The election of President-elect Donald Trump now puts that partnership into question. Trump has openly and strongly attacked NAFTA, calling it “...the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere, but certainly ever signed in this country." Furthermore, Trump has clashed with both nations' leaders and his international path seems to be moving farther away from the American continent.
Trump’s foreign agenda is also reflected in his pick for secretary of state. After names like Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani were tossed around, the president-elect chose Rex Tillerson, ExxonMobil CEO, in what is seen as arguably his most controversial pick yet.
Tillerson, whose confirmation hearing took place early Wednesday, January 11, has been CEO of the world's largest publicly traded international oil and gas company for over 10 years and is ranked #24 on Forbes’ “World's Most Powerful People.”
The real controversy lies with Tillerson’s strong ties to Russia, which dates back to the 1990s, when he led Exxon's interests in the country. In 2013, the oil mogul was awarded Russia's “Order of Friendship” for his contributions in encouraging cooperation with Russia’s energy sector.
Tillerson’s profile and his relationship with Vladimir Putin offer insight into the international path that the United States could take in the next four years.
The secretary of state is a key position in Trump’s administration, since it oversees 30,000 employees and an approximate budget of $35 billion. Along with managing the State Department, the secretary of state represents the United States abroad, coordinates foreign assistance and military programs, counters international crime, and provides services to U.S. citizens and foreign nationals seeking entrance into the U.S.
The U.S. neighbors appear to be taking actions of their own. With Tillerson's confirmation being considered, Mexico has decided to name a new Minister of Foreign Affairs (the third under President Peña Nieto in four years).
Mexico’s new face for international relations is none other than Luis Videgaray, former secretary of Treasury, who was removed from office after Donald Trump visited Mexico during his presidential campaign. Videgaray is rumored to have strong ties with the Trump family and Peña Nieto is betting on that to soften the blow of Trump’s mandate and the impact it’s had so far on the Mexican peso.
On the other hand, Canada is preparing for what seems to be a less friendly relationship with their neighbor.
In the past couple of days, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made strategic moves to his cabinet, leading to Inauguration Day. Of note, Trudeau appointed Chrystia Freeland as Foreign Minister, a journalist of Ukrainian descent who is a well-known critic of Russia, and was even banned from Moscow in 2014. Trudeau also appointed Ahmed Hussen, a Somali-Canadian who arrived in Canada as a 16-year-old refugee, as Canada’s Immigration Minister.
It is not uncommon for countries to adjust their leadership when external circumstances demand it, but it remains to be seen if the “three amigos” can survive the Trump presidency.