Esteban Moctezuma Barragán is serving as Mexico’s ambassador to the United States at a particularly contentious time. The Biden administration is pressuring its southern neighbor to do more to stem the tide of illegal migrants crossing into the U.S. and stop the flow of fentanyl that fuels America’s opioid crisis. And Republican candidates for the U.S. presidency, including Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, and Vivek Ramaswamy, have vowed to use the U.S. military in varying ways to go after Mexican drug cartels.
At the same time, Mexico is trying to capitalize on growing rifts between Washington and Beijing to convince American companies to set up industrial hubs in Mexico instead of in China.
Moctezuma came to Washington in 2021 after serving as Mexico’s secretary of public education. He has had numerous roles in the Mexican government since 1988, including under its former ruling party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, commonly referred to as PRI.
The following has been edited for clarity and length:
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador often attacks the press and political opponents on a personal level, in some ways similar to former President Donald Trump. How difficult is it for you to represent him and Mexico to an administration that is trying to move the U.S. away from Trump and Trumpism?
Well, he manages his communication scheme, and we don’t participate. The foreign affairs principles that guide every ambassador — and they’re written in the Constitution — are very clear. We are always focusing on having a very clear relationship with the core issues of the bilateral relationship, not everyday issues.
Do you often hear complaints from the Biden administration about what AMLO is doing?
No, no, no. What I think is that the Biden administration and my embassy are focused on the core issues of our relationship.
I want to ask you about the effort to get U.S. companies to invest in Mexico. Some American companies don’t expect Mexican courts to protect property and contract rights. AMLO himself has criticized courts for protecting multinational companies. So why should foreign companies feel it’s safe to invest in Mexico?
What companies do is seek objective reasons to invest, and the objective reasons to invest in Mexico are very strong. There is a rule of law. There is always an equilibrium between what the executive wants and the laws, the initiatives he sends, and the presence of the Supreme Court and the legislature. So, in Mexico, we have our balance of power and it’s very strong.
What we have received in the last month is the highest investment numbers in the last decade. We just learned that Tesla’s moving to Nuevo Leon with an investment of more than $5 billion. All the industrial parks are packed and everything is bought or leased. So, there is a huge investment flowing to Mexico. And investors see that we have a very strong macroeconomic policy that has made a very strong peso.