Will the president know what his chancellor did in Washington last week? Has Marcelo Ebrard informed you of the details of what was agreed in the High Level Economic Dialogue? Did Andrés Manuel López Obrador approve what they signed on his behalf? If you are not aware or were not properly informed, what happened during the Donald Trump administration’s negotiation for the Democrats to approve the North American trade agreement, when they gave so much that the American negotiators thought it was a trap, because they had given them everything they wanted, without putting, as with previous governments, the interest of Mexico.
What happened in the background in Washington did not come out in the press conference that Ebrard led shortly after the meeting ended. What he reported with a positive spin, were setbacks for López Obrador’s agenda. Neither the summit with President Joe Biden was held on September 23, nor will the border be opened for non-essential traffic, nor did they heed his proposal to flood Central America with trees. But what he did not even outline is what is fundamental, because it creates a new strategic framework for the bilateral relationship.
According to the basic working document released by the White House, there are four “pillars” of this redesign of the bilateral relationship, three of them established since the creation of the Dialogue by Presidents Barack Obama and Enrique Peña Nieto in 2013 , but the one that will revolutionize relations is contained in Pillar III, whose objective is to guarantee “the tools for future prosperity.” What is the White House referring to? To build a strategic alliance to support the United States in its long-term fight against China and Russia.
López Obrador had already begun to build walls in front of China after having opened his arms to it, and proposed to Latin American leaders to prevent the economic power of Beijing from advancing, proposing to ally itself commercially with the United States. After Thursday’s meeting, that tactical alliance became strategic, as far as Mexico is concerned. Pillar III indicates that the two countries “will support regulatory compatibility and risk mitigation in matters related to information and communication technologies, networks, cybersecurity, telecommunications and infrastructure, among others.” These 26 words may not say much to many, but their context shows the depth of what was agreed upon.
The second subsection of this pillar proposes “to improve cross-border data flows and interoperability between the United States and Mexico.” This proposal has to do with China, within the United States’ struggle for world supremacy, where it has engaged in a technological war. In April of last year, the still Attorney General William Barr, warned that the dominance of telecommunications chains with 5G technology – fifth generation mobile telephony – is one of the greatest threats to the security and economy of the United States. , given the risk that China, a power in the field, can monitor and watch over its adversaries. “Our economic future is at risk,” Barr said. “The risk of losing the 5G fight with China far outweighs other considerations.”
40% of the infrastructure of the 5G market, Barr noted, is controlled by the two Chinese telecom giants, Huawei and ZTE, the platforms through which millions and millions of dollars of the global digital economy will circulate, they will alter the correlation of power, leaning at this time to Beijing. The United States and several of its allies have been trying to contain Huawei through sanctions, such as those imposed by Washington this year that caused losses of 50 billion dollars by losing part of its market.
The Chinese technology giants are one of the nightmares of the United States, and since 2015 the message from Washington to Mexico is that they have no problem with investments from China, except in this matter. Other technologies also represent the risks and threats that Barr mentioned, such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing, capable of cracking data codes and getting into any system you want. This concern is suggested by the first paragraph of Pillar III, which speaks of “developing opportunities to strengthen cybersecurity protections in global supply chains”, to which Ebrard vaguely referred at the press conference.
It is a subject of great depth. In the first half of this year, Russian hackers attacked the US Colonial Pipeline company, and stopped the largest oil pipeline in the United States by stealing a password, causing shortages in the supply of energy to the entire Atlantic coast. They also attacked the meat processing giant, JBS, disrupting its operations in the United States, Canada and Australia. Last December hackers attacked SolarWinds, affecting software supply chains around the world, exposing vulnerabilities in cyber defense systems in the United States.
The Dialogue, according to the White House document, “will strengthen our society to ensure in the best way that the United States and Mexico face the challenges of our time and ensure that our peoples prosper.” The general lines will have to be unfolded in policies in each of the countries, compatible and cross-border, in a strategic redefinition of the bilateral relationship, which implies that in these times where there is a new cold war, but digital, Mexico took sides. Did Ebrard’s commitment have the authorization of the president who thinks differently? It is not known, but it is a profound change that implies political and strategic realignment with the United States, typical of times of war, not peace.
Note: In last Friday’s column the book “The Third Wave” by Samuel Huntington was identified as the one that showed conflicts for religious and cultural reasons. The book that should have been referred to is “The Clash of Civilizations”; the first narrates the latest wave of democratization.