It’s no surprise that former Mexican President Vicente Fox seemed to feel right at home when he spoke last week to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council during a dinner at the Intercontinental hotel in Century City.

Never mind his comment that his daughter lives here and is applying to become a U.S. citizen. Fox has garnered a following among Mexicans and Americans alike for his pointed YouTube videos criticizing President Donald Trump, a popularity that must only be greater in Los Angeles.

This city is, after all, not just the capital of the Pacific Rim, but also the heart of Mexican-American life, including individuals and families with roots that run centuries deep, and the more recent diaspora communities from Mexico.

L.A.’s economic, cultural and political ties with Mexico are inextricable, and that’s more and more the case in the rest of California and the country. It’s something Fox certainly understands – seemingly as much as our own president doesn’t.

Our countries should be building bridges, not walls, Fox told the audience gathered by the World Affairs Council. He backed up the sound bite by noting just how much the United States depends on its neighbor to the south, not only for the immigrant workers and entrepreneurs it gives us (see related Op-Ed, opposite page), but in the trade of goods. Mexico is the second-largest U.S. export market, buying $230.9 billion of our products and services last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. It also is the largest such market for California at $25.3 billion.

The California Chamber of Commerce reported that Mexico sends more visitors to the Golden State than any other country, with nearly 7.8 million visitors in 2015 who spent more than $3 billion.

Trade tariffs as well as physical and cultural barriers will only hurt both of our countries, Fox said.

He’s right.

Fox had some kind words for some of Trump’s proposals – the right kind of tax reform can stimulate an economy, and the North American Free Trade Agreement does need to be renegotiated to address the changing times, he said. He also supports Trump’s proposal to require Mexican employers to raise workers’ salaries as part of a new NAFTA.

But build walls – physical, economic and otherwise – and U.S. trading partners will look elsewhere. Fox noted Mexico’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and that grain prices in Brazil and Argentina are looking quite competitive with U.S. farmers these days.

“The world is open,” Fox said, “and we must compete in that arena to survive.”

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