Shannon K. O'Neil

Latin America's Moment

O'Neil analyzes developments in Latin America and U.S. relations in the region.

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What Should the Top Priority be for U.S.-Mexico Relations?

by Shannon K. O'Neil
December 4, 2012

Mexico's new President Enrique Pena Nieto waves after taking oath in congress in Mexico City (Stringer/Courtesy of Reuters). Mexico's new President Enrique Pena Nieto waves after taking oath in congress in Mexico City (Stringer/Courtesy of Reuters).


To commemorate Enrique Peña Nieto’s inauguration, the Americas Society/Council of the Americas asked many avid Mexico watchers what should be the top priority for U.S.-Mexico relations going forward. Here was my response:

Mexico and the United States should focus on deepening economic ties. Commercial interdependence is already substantial, with nearly a half trillion dollars’ worth of goods crossing the border each year. Some 80 percent of Mexico’s exports go north, and for nearly half of U.S. states, Mexico is the number one or two destination for exports— supporting an estimated 6 million American jobs today.

These exports are more often than not pieces and parts—not finished goods—evidence of the regional supply chains developing in North America. In fact, 40 percent (on average) of every product imported from Mexico is really “made in America.” This compares to just 4 percent in goods from China.

Facilitating and expanding these production links will require making cross-border trade more efficient through investments in border infrastructure, standardized regulations (so that countries do not need fulfill similar requirements in both countries), and common customs forms, among other efforts. But they will also enable companies to become more globally competitive, benefiting businesses, workers, and ultimately the economies of both nations.

To read the other responses click here. I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments section or on Twitter.

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