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Mexican Officials Taken By Surprise Over Ford's Reversal On Plant


When Ford dropped plans to build a manufacturing plant in Mexico, President-elect Donald Trump was full of praise. He tweeted, this is just the beginning - much more to follow. Well, that's not being taken as well in Mexico.

NPR's Carrie Kahn is in the city where the Ford plant was already under construction. She joins us now. And Carrie, I understand you're in the area considered Mexico's industrial heartland, right?

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Yes, this is pretty much in the center of Mexico, and there's a bunch of states here. I'm in the state of San Luis Potosi, and the surrounding states really make up Mexico's industrial core. Right now there's a lot of U.S. companies here. And that Ford plant was already under construction and was - it was hooking up into the infrastructure that's here in this industrial heartland.

CORNISH: And rather than build the plant in Mexico, Ford says it's going to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in facilities in Michigan. That's going to add about 700 jobs there. But how are people in Mexico taking the news?

KAHN: They're very upset, not taking it well at all. Like I said, the plant was already under construction, so that work has stopped, and those people are out of jobs. Once the plant was built, it was going to employ 2,800 people, so those are jobs that are not going to be here anymore.

I stood outside the plant, trying to talk to some of the people that were leaving. Nobody really wanted to talk to an American reporter. But one of the guards there did tell me that the situation is very tense. People just got news of this, and they're just very upset.

CORNISH: Do you get the sense that blame is falling directly on President-elect Donald Trump?

KAHN: Overwhelmingly people are placing blame on President-elect Trump. They are very upset with him. I talked to about four or five people - all said the same thing. He hasn't even taken power yet, and he's already doing damage to us. I'll say it nicer than they said it to me. They feel like they're being blamed for a lot of situations that are going on in the United States that is not their fault, and they squarely place that blame on Donald Trump.

They're also mad at their own officials who haven't - they say haven't done enough to stand up to Donald Trump and defend the working Mexicans here and the Mexicans that are living in the United States. They're as angry with their own officials as they are with Donald Trump.

CORNISH: You called this an industrial hub of Mexico, but what other U.S. companies are there?

KAHN: Yes, there's a huge GM plant here. And GM has been very clear to say that the cars that are manufactured there at their plant do not go to the United States for sale. Only a small number of them do because they've been also under fire from Donald Trump. But they say that those cars that are built there are sent to Latin America and to Mexico for sale, so they want to make that very clear.

But this is, like, the core heartland of production and what NAFTA has brought to Mexico. And one person that I spoke to told me, you know, we've seen so much progress being made over the years because of these international companies bringing jobs here, and it just hurts so much to see us losing these jobs now.

CORNISH: And what about Mexico's government officials? How are they reacting to the news?

KAHN: Well, in response to what Donald Trump said - that this is just the beginning - they say they don't see a cascade of companies leaving Mexico. They're more concerned right now of recouping the cost of the Ford plant here, and they want Ford to reimburse them for all of the money that they spent buying the land and getting it ready for them, things like that.

But there is great concern about what people on the street are saying. You know, President-elect Trump hasn't even taken power yet, and already they're feeling the repercussions. What's going to happen when he's actually in power?

CORNISH: That's NPR's Carrie Kahn. Carrie, thanks so much.

KAHN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on NPR.org.