Skip to main content

Mexico, U.S. ties ripe for major expansion

By Andrew Selee and Christopher Wilson, Special to CNN
updated 5:37 PM EST, Tue November 27, 2012
Newspaper headlines at a newstand in Mexico City report U.S. President Obama has won re-election.
Newspaper headlines at a newstand in Mexico City report U.S. President Obama has won re-election.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Writers; Obama and Mexico's next president meet in opportunity for improved ties
  • They say economic issues loom large as immigration and crime issues recede
  • Writers: Circumstances are favorable for new mutally beneficial trade, security pacts
  • As bilateral agenda progresses, they say, two nations can cooperate on global issues

Editor's note: Andrew Selee is the vice president for programs at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and a senior adviser for the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center. Christopher Wilson is an associate for the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center.

(CNN) -- As they meet for the first time Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexico's President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto will be operating in a landscape of U.S.-Mexico relations that has changed profoundly since Mexico's outgoing president, Felipe Calderon, took office six years ago.

Illegal immigration is at the lowest level in four decades, and organized crime violence, which has driven much of recent cooperation between the two countries, is finally declining.

Violence remains a critical issue, but economic issues -- bilateral and global -- have risen to the fore as both countries struggle to emerge from the global slowdown. The two leaders will need to give greater emphasis to economic issues, including job creation. But this is also an opportunity to strengthen cooperation on global issues.

Andrew Selee
Andrew Selee
Christopher Wilson
Christopher Wilson

In most trading relationships, the United States simply buys goods or sells them to other countries. With its neighbors Mexico and Canada, however, the United States actually co-manufactures products. Roughly 40% of all content in Mexican exported to the United States originates in the United States.

Opinion: To-do list for Obama and Mexico's new president

The comparable figures with China, Brazil and India are 4%, 3% and 2%, respectively. Only Canada, at 25%, is close. The U.S. and Mexican economies are so deeply linked, growth in one country benefits the other, and lowering the transaction costs of goods crossing the border helps put money in the pockets of workers and consumers.

To do this, it will be important to improve border ports of entry by investing in infrastructure and staffing, as well as implementing new risk management techniques to speed up trusted shipments across the border.

Pursuing an Open Skies Agreement between the two nations' airlines and making the cross-border trucking pilot program -- in which Mexican truckers can carry goods deep into the United States and vice versa -- would also strengthen competitiveness. Although these are generally seen as border issues, the benefits accrue to U.S. states that depend on exports and joint manufacturing with Mexico, including Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, New Hampshire and Georgia.

Mexico also has abundant oil reserves and one of the four or five largest stocks of shale gas in the world. Mexico's new government will probably pursue major energy reform over the next couple of years that could spur oil and gas production in dramatic ways. If that happens, it is certain to detonate a cycle of investment in the Mexican economy and could significantly contribute to discussions on possible North American energy security.

Opinion: Mexico's misconceptions

Aerospace industry expanding in Mexico
Peña Nieto on the economy
What can save Mexico?

Obama and Peña Nieto's administrations also offer a time for critical opportunities in education. With an ambitious but inexpensive public and private venture to spur educational exchange, Mexico could train its next generation of engineers, scientists and medical professionals in U.S. universities while American students enjoy access to Spanish and other cultural competencies in Mexico that they need to compete in the global economy.

Without doubt, security cooperation will also remain a critical part of the relationship between the nations. With most of the largest drug trafficking organizations crippled, it is time to focus on strategies that lessen violence and build the rule of law.

The U.S. government can still do a great deal more to reduce money laundering and arms trafficking, and the Mexican government has its work cut out to reform its police, prosecutors and courts. These efforts can be far more effective if the nations work together to benefit the safety and security of citizens in both countries.

Migration is the one issue the two leaders will talk about Tuesday that matters a great deal to both nations but does not lend itself easily to a bilateral agreement. But the enormous drop in Mexican immigration to the United States -- most studies show that illegal immigration has dropped to net zero and may be negative -- allows the two countries to think seriously about what Mexico might be willing to do to police its borders if the United States undertakes a major overhaul of its immigration laws.

Finally, as Mexico continues to grow economically, it will be increasingly possible for the two governments to focus on global challenges. This has already started. Mexico hosted the G-20 earlier this year and also joined the talks for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which led to extensive discussions between the two governments on global economic issues.

Opinion: Latin America's challenge

Trade, security and migration will undoubtedly remain the most important topics as the two leaders meet. But as the bilateral relationship develops, relations between the nations might one day resemble those between the United States and Canada, in which global issues can be equally important.

A balanced and wide-ranging U.S.-Mexico agenda -- one that seeks creative and collaborative approaches on topics ranging from local gangs to global terrorist networks and from regional supply chains to international finance -- promises significant benefits to people in both nations in the coming years.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writers.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 2:52 PM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
updated 6:12 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
updated 8:36 AM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
updated 2:14 PM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
updated 10:35 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
updated 7:57 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
updated 11:29 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
updated 4:15 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
updated 1:11 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
updated 1:08 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
updated 1:53 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
updated 3:19 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
updated 5:39 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
updated 2:51 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
updated 4:13 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
updated 7:55 AM EST, Wed December 10, 2014
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
updated 12:34 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
updated 8:42 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
updated 12:40 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT