Amid U.S.-Mexico acrimony, energy might present common ground and opportunity, analysts say

President Trump has repeatedly said he wants to renegotiate NAFTA and railed at U.S. companies that moved operations to Mexico. His administration has suggested imposing punitive tariffs, and he continues to say he’ll make Mexico pay for a wall on its norther border.

South of that border, Mexico’s foreign secretary reportedly told Mexican lawmakers in private that the country is prepared to impose tariffs of its own. According to news reports, Luis Videgaray said the Mexican government is bracing for a long “battle” with the Trump administration.

Such cross-border talk has raised fears north and south about possible bruising effects on various industries, such as automobile manufacturing and agriculture. 

But many analysts agree that in at least one sector — energy — the two countries still share opportunities for financial gain and have less incentive for conflict. Even if some terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement change, they say, energy can remain a boon for both countries’ economies, along with that of Canada.

Ixchel Castro, the manager of oil and refining research in Latin America for the consulting firm Wood Mackenzie, said the involvement of former Exxon Mobil Chief Executive and current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who visited Mexico City last week, was a good sign.

“Someone from Exxon Mobil understands very well how this mutual collaboration has been a win-win in the last few years,” Castro said.

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