U.S.A.-Mexico Interdependence Continues to Grow

By Patrick Corcoran, Mexidata Info, January 29, 2007


Mexican President Felipe Calderon made news a couple of weeks ago when he said that Mexico belongs first and foremost to Latin America.

“Mexico is essentially Latin American,” the president said. “Independent of the fact that geographically we belong to North America, we know our essence and our substance, our history, our past and our future are in Latin America.”

Pretty words but are they true?

Leaving aside the fact that Latin America is something of an artificial construct (after all, what do anarchic, French-speaking Haiti, emerging giant Brazil, and wealthy, dynamic Chile all have in common? Not a whole lot save a hemisphere), there is little to support Calderon’s claim. For better or worse there is no push for a Bolivian trade agreement in Mexico, nor are people scrambling to line up jobs at an Argentine retail chain that is opening stores across the land of the Aztec Sun.

The mere fact that Calderon felt compelled to make the above statement is evidence of Mexico’s growing integration with the United States, and some voters’ resulting uneasiness.

The most common interpretation of Calderon’s comments, made during his Central America visit for Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega’s inauguration, is that the president was distancing himself from his pro-American image, shoring up his political flank on the anti-American left. It follows that Calderon’s symbolic first journey as president-elect was not to the United States but to South America.

George W. Bush has been more than willing to reciprocate his lack of enthusiasm for the relationship. Despite the fact that he gave immigration reform ample attention during his recent State of the Union address, Bush never once mentioned Mexico. Although he recently placed a friendly phone call to Calderon, the soaring rhetoric and personal intimacy that characterized Bush’s pre-September 11 rapport with Vicente Fox are absent. Xenophobic, anti-immigrant congressmen are a force in Bush’s party, and he has shown little willingness to open himself up to attacks from the right by reverting to his erstwhile enthusiasm for Texas’ southern neighbor.

But their leaders’ behavior notwithstanding, the connection between Mexico and the United States is as strong as ever and not likely to weaken....

The two nations’ economic integration was cemented by the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, which has now been in place for 13 years. Mexico is the United States’ third leading trade partner (having recently been leapfrogged by China), as well as a leading source of oil.

As important as those trade ties are to the United States, they are absolutely essential to Mexico. The United States eats up almost 90 percent of Mexican exports, while providing more than half of its direct foreign investment. Mexicans residing in the United States supply a US$20-billion-plus annual jolt to their homeland’s economy through remittance payments....

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