Question: As Mexico’s top-ranking diplomat, normally you don’t get involved in U.S. politics at all. But you have been very critical of Donald Trump. Why have you decided to go after Donald Trump so hard?
Foreign Secretary Claudia Ruiz Massieu: I have not been involved in the U.S. electoral process. I've been doing my job, which is to be clear about the contributions made by our community on a daily basis to the growth and development of the United States.
Question: But to be clear, you have been very critical of Donald Trump. For example, you said his comment was ignorant and racist.
Foreign Secretary Claudia Ruiz Massieu: The best way to counter misinformation and stereotypes is to speak with facts, information and truth.
Question: About Trump’s success, President Peña Nieto said, "This is how Mussolini came about; this is how Hitler came about.” Those are some, shall we say, pretty tough comparisons. Is that appropriate?
Foreign Secretary Claudia Ruiz Massieu: It’s important not to let isolationist, racist or xenophobic comments get out of control. He was talking about the rhetoric we have seen not only in the United States but also in other regions of the world, for example, in Europe, and that is something that I think should raise democratic concerns everywhere.
Question: How would you work with him if he were elected, if he actually became the President of the United States?
Foreign Secretary Claudia Ruiz Massieu: Mexico and the United States have such a strong and intertwined relationship that’s multidimensional, that involves so many actors at so many different levels. It really transcends any political juncture and any one person.
Question: When Donald Trump announced that he was in the race, I’m sure you are well aware that he said, "When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” As a Mexican citizen, what did you think when you heard Donald Trump say that?
Foreign Secretary Claudia Ruiz Massieu: Well, I really have to object to that characterization. Our community in the United States is comprised of over 35 million people. Not only thousands of agricultural workers that support the agricultural industry in states such as California, North Carolina or Florida, but increasingly professional and highly trained people. In fact, Mexico has the second largest professional diaspora in the United States. We are talking about lawyers, we’re talking about designers in Silicon Valley. We’re talking about medical professionals. We’re talking about Oscar winners.
Question: You may have heard that one of his ideas is to build a wall between the US and Mexico. The way Trump puts it, is that we would have a big, beautiful door. In other words, despite this, legal migration would continue. What is wrong with the idea of just having a barrier, as he says, to stop illegal migration?
Foreign Secretary Claudia Ruiz Massieu: Well, that's impossible. For over 200 years we have been knocking down barriers and walls, we have been integrating and doing more work together to deal with the challenges we have to becoming more competitive with other regions around the world. I think that's the real issue here. It’s not a problem about a wall. It is a problem about narrow minds. We have a very integrated economy that would suffer greatly if we place barriers into that dynamic. For example, the automotive industry. The United States is the world 's largest vehicle manufacturer. The automotive industry is so integrated that a lot of the auto parts cross the border 8 or 9 times before the car is made. So, we don’t want to add barriers to a very competitive industry. And this is just one example. There are many more.
Question: Of course, he says Mexico will pay for this wall that you just said you oppose.
Foreign Secretary Claudia Ruiz Massieu: That's absurd; we would never consider that.
Question: NAFTA: Trump has said it is one of the worst economic agreements made by our country. But he’s not saying he would kill it. He is saying that he wants to renegotiate and improve it. The agreement is 20 years old. Is your government, the Mexican government, open to improving NAFTA, to changing NAFTA?
Foreign Secretary Claudia Ruiz Massieu: No, that's not something we are considering. NAFTA works. The way to modernize it and make it part of the demands of the 21st century, is to move forward. For us, this means the TPP. For us, this means embracing the TPP as a region in order to be more competitive, to deepen many of the areas that were included in NAFTA originally, such as telecommunications or labor, and to incorporate these areas into the TPP, ones that have been included, as we were discussing, for 22 years, now.
Question: I'm sure you've seen in our electoral process that it is not just about Donald Trump. Bernie Sanders made trade an important issue, portraying NAFTA as a jobs murderer. What do you say to those who, like the citizens of Indianapolis, see Carrier Air Conditioner [moving jobs to Mexico]? "The best way to maintain competitiveness and protect the business in the long term is to move the production of our factories in Indianapolis to Monterrey, Mexico. This is strictly a business decision." And 1,400 US jobs are gone.
Foreign Secretary Claudia Ruiz Massieu: I think many people feel excluded from the benefits of economic integration, and governments should focus on that. On how to make each person a part of this dynamic and of these benefits. Mexico does not steal jobs from the United States. Automation and logistics have caused jobs to move elsewhere. You can also see all of the new jobs that have been created and that are supported by our bilateral relationship.
Question: The average factory worker in Juarez, obviously across the border from El Paso, earns about $ 5,000 a year. Conditions are bad in the factories; there have been three incidents in the past; there have been mass firings because people tried to form unions. How do you suppose US companies can compete with factories in Mexico that are paying a fraction of what U.S. workers are being paid here?
Foreign Secretary Claudia Ruiz Massieu: Well, that's why we are focusing on being more competitive in standardizing job requirements and rules through the TPP. We need to look at the whole picture. Mexico, the USA and Canada have created thousands of jobs overall through NAFTA over the past 20 years. The numbers are there, the jobs are there and the way to keep creating and supporting these and more jobs is to keep working together.