MEXICO CITY Mexico appointed its third ambassador to the United States in less than a year just days before the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, who has unleashed widespread concern in Mexico with his aggressive rhetoric on trade and jobs.
The government said in a statement on Friday that the new envoy to Washington would be Geronimo Gutierrez, who held senior posts in two previous Mexican administrations headed by the opposition center-right National Action Party (PAN).
The nomination of Gutierrez, which must be ratified by the Senate, suggested that President Enrique Pena Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) hopes to shore up cross-party political support as he faces Trump.
"It's a message of national unity," said Juan Carlos Romero Hicks, a PAN senator and member of the upper chamber's Foreign
Relations Committee. He applauded the nomination of Gutierrez, currently head of the North American Development Bank.
The bank was set up under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which Trump has threatened to tear up if he cannot renegotiate it in favor of the United States.
Trump, who has also threatened to slap hefty tariffs or taxes on Mexican-made goods, is due to take office on Jan. 20.
Mexico is particularly exposed to any economic shock because it sends about 80 percent of its exports to the United States and has long depended on its neighbor for about half of its foreign direct investment.
The country's economy minister said on Friday that Mexico must be ready to respond immediately with its own tax measures if the Trump administration imposes a border tax.
Gutierrez will replace Carlos Sada, who switches to the role of deputy foreign minister responsible for North American relations, a move the PAN's Romero Hicks described as a "great designation" given his experience in U.S.-Mexican relations.
Pena Nieto earlier this week sketched out his plans for dealing with Trump, saying that "all the issues" defining bilateral relations would be on the table, including security, migration and trade when the two sides met for talks.
Among posts Gutierrez previously held were deputy foreign minister for North America and deputy interior minister.
Pena Nieto's poll ratings have been in the doldrums for months and a hike in fuel prices at the start of the year has unleashed fresh discontent and protests across much of Mexico.
(Reporting by Michael O'Boyle and Dave Graham; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Dan Grebler)