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Mexican economic minister on Trump: 'If we have to talk to the devil … we will'

Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo
Dursun Aydemir | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo

Despite Donald Trump's repeated inflammatory comments, a key Mexican official said his country is prepared to negotiate if the GOP nominee wins the election.

"There are many countries that are related to the U.S. economy, but very few that are so related (as) Mexico," Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal said Wednesady night at a panel hosted by the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. He noted that 80 percent of the country's exports go to the United States.

The panel, which also featured the presidents of Chile, Colombia and Peru, focused on the future of the Pacific Alliance, a trade bloc comprising those three nations and Mexico. The four countries collectively account for more than a third of Latin America's gross domestic product and 46 percent of the region's exports.

CNBC's Michelle Caruso-Cabrera moderated the discussion.

When asked about what would happen if Trump were to win, Guajardo indicated that Mexico would be willing to talk.

"For Mexico, we have to be out there," he said. "If we have to talk to the devil to guarantee the safety and the future of the Mexican people in Mexico and the U.S., we will talk to the devil."

To watch a video of the full panel, click here.


"I think the world needs more female presidents." -Michelle Bachelet, president, Chile

Trump has drawn the ire of many people south and north of the Mexican border by saying he plans to build a wall between the countries — a physical division he says Mexico will pay to construct. He also says that all illegal immigrants in gangs will be deported and that birthright citizenship will end, even though the latter is enshrined in the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.

Amid Trump's hard line on immigration, his support among Hispanics has badly trailed Hillary Clinton's by 48 percentage points. The Democratic nominee has 65 percent support among likely Hispanic voters while Trump has just 17 percent, according to a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News/Telemundo survey.

Regarding Trump, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said, "I think the world needs more female presidents," presumably a nod of support for Clinton.

Meanwhile, Juan Manuel Santos, president of Colombia, said he's learned not to intervene in other countries' elections. While he said he knows Clinton, he does not know Trump.

"I don't know Mr. Trump. I have not ever exchanged a word with him," he said, "so it's very difficult for me to comment about what he's thinking about Colombia."

Still, he does not like Trump's policies on trade or migration. But he noted that politicians often say one thing on the campaign trial but do another once they have taken office and face the reality of what is and isn't possible.