- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 14, 2013

For Mexico’s former ambassador to the U.S., the hot-and-cold relationship between the two countries reminds him of the Dickens novel “A Tale of Two Cities.”

The daily diplomacy between the United States and Mexico “is the best of times and the worst of times,” Arturo Sarukhan told an audience at the University of Southern California this week.

He cited the North American Free Trade Agreement as an example of the best in the relationship.

Acknowledging that critics and proponents of the 1994 pact debate NAFTA’s impact, he said they must agree that it has “done admirably well” as a free-trade agreement, according to a report from the university’s Daily Trojan newspaper. NAFTA has resulted in U.S.-Mexican trade of nearly $500 billion a year, up from about $800 million in 1993, according to U.S. government figures.

Mr. Sarukhan called illegal immigration and cross-border drug smuggling and gang violence the worst scar on bilateral ties.

As ambassador in Washington from January 2007 to January 2013, he said his biggest challenge was “winning both the hearts of Mexicans and Americans.”

“The biggest challenge was to convince Mexicans and Americans that there are no two societies more relevant to each other’s well-being than Mexico and America,” he said.

Mr. Sarukhan noted that before he arrived in Washington, he got advice from a Texan friend about one of an ambassador’s most important duties — giving speeches.

“Public speaking is like a Texas longhorn,” his friend said. “There’s a point here, a point there and a lot of bull in the middle.”

PUTTIN’ ON THE RITZ

The U.S. ambassador to Britain sounded nervous Thursday, as he worried about what to wear when he presented his diplomatic credentials to Queen Elizabeth II.

“Diplomacy is a balancing act, like wearing a top hat,” Matthew Barzun said in a Twitter message with a photo of him trying on a topper at a men’s store in London.

Typically a male foreign ambassador could wear a top hat, cutaway coat and stripped trousers at his credentials’ ceremony at Buckingham Palace.

Mr. Barzun’s British Twitter fans responded to his tweet with encouraging messages.

“The photo makes you the coolest ambassador ever!” said Eugene Resnick, an urban planner in London.

Lisa Markwell, an editor at The Independent newspaper, on Sunday noted a Dickensian touch to the New York-born Internet pioneer and former Obama fundraiser who took up his post in August.

“You must be getting used to London; there’s something of the Artful Dodger about that look!” she said, referring to the impish pickpocket in “Oliver Twist.”

Tom Fletcher, Britain’s ambassador to Lebanon, recalled that Benjamin Franklin, America’s first ambassador to France, was the first foreign envoy to appear hatless at the court of Louis XVI.

“Glad to see proper standards restored,” Mr. Fletcher added.

DIDN’T BUILD THAT

Daniel Hannan, a conservative member of the European Parliament who is highly regarded in conservative circles in Washington, had some advice for Republicans as President Obama’s health care program continues to unravel.

“Obamacare is becoming a political disaster even before it starts,” he said Thursday on Twitter. “Console yourselves with this thought, Republicans: you didn’t build that.”

Embassy Row is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. James Morrison can be reached at jmorrison@washingtontimes.com or @EmbassyRow.