2018 Represented a tense year for the political relationship between the United States and Mexico. Outside of all the general news stories covered this year, there were two major events that will surely impact the relationships of our two countries for the foreseeable future: the USMCA negotiations and Mexico’s national elections. The expectation that in closing the book on 2018, we will begin to bring some normalcy to U.S.-Mexico relations will be hard to deliver.
For better or worse, the North American Free Trade Agreement has been replaced by the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Like any negotiation a give and take is always required. Still to be weighed are the impact that the compromises made by both the Mexico and Canada will have on the regional economy and the U.S. jobs supported by the trade and services dependent on both countries. The cross-border supply chains once meticulously created by our our businesses will have to be reassessed and formulated especially industries such as automotive manufacturing. Before the agreement was signed both the U.S. and Mexico were facing unemployment rates below 4%, how shifting rules on certain products affect already established times lines will be interesting to monitor.
Politically speaking the landscape after the elections in Mexico will never be the same! With the introduction of reelections into Mexico’s political system we should expect some interesting developments. Over the next few years, you should expect an uptick in communication between Mexican elected officials and their U.S. counterparts: such interactions lead to greater cultural sensitivity, exchange of best practices, and a greater understanding of each countries’ expectations. Over the last twenty years regardless of the federal political climate our businesses, universities, and cities have gravitated towards closer relationship with Mexico. This shouldn’t be an different between the public sector of both our countries, and being held accountable for their actions, or lack thereof, by their community should spur MX politician to build bridges between them and the US.
Four years ago, this would have been a no brainer for any Mexican politician looking to leverage the positive sentiment between their communities and the U.S.; however, we have seen the positive sentiment for Americanism diminish in the country. In a trend present in almost every country, individual’s have had a growing negative view of the U.S.. Reported by the Pew Research Center in 2017 only 30% of people interviewed in Mexico held a positive view of the U.S. Favorability varies geographically but caps out at 41% near the U.S.-Mexico border region and diminishes below 30% away from the border. This presents an interesting dilemma in repairing U.S.-Mexico relations for the newly elected Mexican officials: Why collaborate with someone, who your constituents view unfavorably?
For too long we have taken for granted the close ties both of our countries have shared and the positive relationship shared by our former presidents. Today, we must lean more on the elected officials closer to our homes (Congress people, elected city officials, and even Senators) to voice our support for greater cooperation and collaboration with our neighbor in the south. Today, most Americans have a positive view of Mexico… There are over 200 sister cities agreements between U.S. and Mexican and over 100 agreements between universities in our two countries. 66% of Americans away from the border have a favorable view of Mexico. We must push to capitalize on this.
Going into next year, we have already seen a shift from the 2018 narrative. Security will always be the main topic of conversation, but already underway is a major effort by the new Mexican administration to move the conversation towards investment and development in the country.
With a new group of legislators in both countries’ House and Senate the sentiment encountered is one of optimism! Very interested in engaging with one another, 2019 will be a year that produces renewed opportunities and hope for the relationship between both countries! Predictions for next year include increased tourism between both countries; as well as, greater cooperation on issues such as energy, infrastructure, and workforce development.
Improving foreign relations isn’t accomplished, or dismantled, by one person… or at least we shouldn’t allow it to be. Building positive foreign relationships takes a nation, and like the efforts put forth in any relationship requires: time, communication, patience, and continued affirmation of one’s commitment. So let’s go into 2019 with the sour experiences faced in 2018 and turn them into the fine wine that we know our countries can produce. Together we can become the most economically dynamic relationship in the world, it is time we begin taking full advantage of the opportunities available and begin bridging the social and economic gaps between us.