Mexico finds itself unaided in NAFTA talks; Latin American leaders vow to fight U.S. protectionism; and a small Brazilian state remains fiscally fit as others falter.
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In the run-up to NAFTA renegotiation talks among Mexico, Canada and the U.S., comments from Canadian government sources signaled that Mexico could be left to fend for itself amid worsening relations with U.S. President Donald Trump's administration, Reuters reports. "We love our Mexican friends. But our national interests come first and the friendship comes second," one source told the newswire, adding that "the two are not mutually exclusive." A former Canadian ambassador to Washington urged his country to distance itself from Mexico, noting that the two nations have little in common as far as their relationship with the U.S. is concerned. However, the sources also said Canada has not yet reached a final decision on how it will tackle the trade talks, as it is unclear what stance the new U.S. president will initially take.
Just as Donald Trump moved to begin the construction of his controversial border wall with Mexico, leaders and diplomats from across Latin America vowed to jointly oppose the U.S. president's protectionist stance, with many of the region's presidents urging greater economic assimilation to counter Trump's "America first" rhetoric, Ezra Fieser writes for Bloomberg News. At a summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, the leaders issued a joint declaration condemning "all forms of racism, xenophobia, and discrimination against migrants." Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said, "the solution to the question of migration is not walls or borders."
João Doria, a millionaire businessman who recently became the mayor of São Paulo in a landslide victory, believes Brazil's crippling recession has made privatization vitally important, The Wall Street Journal reports. The mayor, who has been likened to U.S. President Donald Trump, is now looking to generate north of 7 billion reais by selling off a big chunk of the city's assets in what would be "the biggest municipal privatization drive" in Brazil's history. Doria has also adopted an unconventional approach to managing his own government, as his staff must fork over a fine of about $60 for every 15 minutes they are late to a meeting. On his first day as mayor, he donned the garbs of a street sweeper in what he said was a show of humility.
Bloomberg View columnist Mac Margolis explores how Espirito Santo, one of Brazil's smallest states accounting for only 2% of the national population, has managed to remain financially healthy even as the country's economic downturn left other states in disarray and unable to pay debts. Much of the credit, Margolis writes, goes to Paulo Hartung, who is currently serving as Espirito Santo's governor for a third, nonconsecutive term. While other states expanded their bureaucracy, Espirito Santo cut jobs and reduced expenditure by 8% in 2016, ending the year with a modest primary surplus. Margolis notes that many states have suffered due to "a toxic combination of public overspending, early retirement and tumbling revenues," and unless Brazil's "spendthrift culture undergoes painful change, good managers like Hartung will be punished with the bad."