Ford photo

(AP) Word spread quickly through cellphone messages and shouts between co-workers that Ford Motor Co. had canceled its new $1.6 billion car plant at its sprawling 700-acre high desert site in north-central Mexico.

“When I saw it on the phone, (I thought), ‘Well, no, it can’t be,’” said Higinio Salazar, a security guard who spent the past five months logging traffic into and out of the site and hoped to have steady work for months to come. “It was on orders of Mr. Trump,” he said bitterly.

That was not the case, Ford insists, but the perception here in Mexico’s burgeoning auto assembly region was largely that President-elect Donald Trump, who had promised for months to bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. while at the same time disparaging Mexicans, had made good before even settling into the White House. Trump took a shot at Toyota on Thursday over its move to make Corollas in this region, though the Japanese company defended its plan.

Ford’s announcement sent shockwaves across Mexico, which has become tightly meshed with the U.S. economy since the advent of the North American Free Trade Agreement, sending 80 percent of its $532 billion in exports across the border in 2015. The U.S. government says $100 billion of that was in vehicles and parts, making Mexico the biggest exporter of automotive products to the United States. Mexico’s auto plants now account for 20 percent of all light vehicles built in North America, industry figures say…