Mariano Gomezperalta Interviews Ana Maria Salazar

Ana María Salazar is a recognized international law and national security expert on Latin America. She is a journalist, analyst, op-ed writer and television anchor at El Financiero Bloomberg TV, ADN40 News, and Imagen News, among others. Ms. Salazar received her J.D. from Harvard Law School and a B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley. She served at the Pentagon as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Drug Enforcement Policy and Support and is a former White House Policy Advisor. She also served in the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

MGC: Ana María thank you very much for this interview. You are a graduate of Harvard Law School, you were named one of the 100 most influential Hispanic Americans in the US and you have held high level positions at the US government. Before we start talking about NAFTA, I am very curious to know how you started a career as a journalist and TV anchor.

AMS: My work on radio and TV started when I moved back to Mexico after working for the US government for more than 10 years and waking up one day and realizing that I had to move on, and find a job since George W. Bush won the elections. I truly enjoyed all the different positions I held. I especially liked working for Bill Clinton’s White House as special assistant to the Envoy of the Americas (this was in 1997-1998) and then working at the Pentagon at the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Drug Enforcement (1998-2001), so I knew that it would be hard to find a job that I loved and felt would be challenging. When the September 11 terrorist attacks took place, I was in an extraordinary position to explain to a Mexican and Latin American audience what had happened and the implications of these attacks in the upcoming years. I also started writing and teaching national security, leadership and negotiation for both military and civilian audiences. I basically started a second career when I moved to Mexico. I have been doing radio and TV in English and in Spanish now for more than 15 years!

MGC: You have interviewed many people and have been a speaker at numerous conferences since the NAFTA renegotiation process started over nine months ago. What has been the issue that has attracted the most journalistic interest in the renegotiation process so far?

AMS: That is an interesting question, because I believe that most of my audience, with the exception of the direct stakeholders of NAFTA, do not understand the scope or the importance of NAFTA as the main tool for growth and development for Mexico. From the media perspective, much of the focus has been on President Trump himself, the way he has publicly treated Mexico and Mexicans, and his disruptive way of negotiating. Much of the analysis has to do with “how to confront a bully” and not necessarily the negotiations themselves, which is a shame, because I believe the Mexican negotiators, from the Ministry of Economy, have done an extraordinary job in a very challenging political environment.

MGC: Where do you think the renegotiation process will end? Will President Trump withdraw from NAFTA? Will we have a new NAFTA in 2019 or will the existing NAFTA remain unchanged?

AMS: I think NAFTA, as we know it, is dead.  Whatever happens next, hopefully there will be an agreement where the idea of a “North America” survives and where all three nations-Mexico, Canada and USA, continue to strive to improve and protect the most powerful regional trade area in the world.  But, recent decisions and threats to impose tariffs, and the position taken by President Donald Trump, show that he does not understand that the security and well-being of the people of North America does depend on the ability of all three nations to cooperate on security, economy and commerce.

MGC: On the security front, do you think the renegotiation of NAFTA can affect Mexico’s and Canada’s willingness to cooperate with the US on security or even military issues?

AMS: Ultimately the security of the US in part depends on having secure borders. And secure borders require cooperation with both of your bordering neighbors. I would never have believed that the day would have come that a President of the United States would use the national security argument as a reason to impose tariffs on Canada, probably the United States’ most important ally. The United States’ security issues with Mexico have a different complexity, but also require close cooperation and trust. I don’t think that curtailing security cooperation between neighbors is a negotiation strategy that could create pressure on Donald Trump, but there are political pressures in both Canada and Mexico that could result in a change of security policies toward the US.