Mexico is one of the three countries, along with Canada and China, that will largely determine the fate of the U.S. However, few Americans seem to understand its influence. As the world's only superpower -- although China is closing in -- politicians and opinion leaders in the U.S. tend to focus on the crises at hand today, from Afghanistan to Libya, Greece to Syria, instead of on long-term issues. This frustrates Mexicans but also creates the opportunity for some effective lobbying.
The facts are telling. Together, Canada and Mexico account for almost one third of the United States' commerce. More importantly, as Chris Wilson has shown, 40% of Mexican exports to the U.S. and 25% of those from Canada are of North American origin, suggesting that the three countries' chains of production are deeply interlaced and that the earnings of one country affects the other two. While they compete against each other, the three also compete in the global market together.
Demographically, Mexico and the U.S. are also strongly linked, with more than 12 million Mexicans on American soil and somewhere around one million North Americans in Mexico. Mexicans are more and more becoming a key influence in the development of communities abroad, with many forming part of the Latino vote which likely decided the election for President Obama and captured both parties' attention.
For many Mexicans, it's frustrating that despite everything that points to their country's importance, the decision makers in the United States pay such little attention to Mexico. But this isn't all bad. Actually, as Luis de la Calle has pointed out, the less the American press comments on Mexico, the better it looks in public opinion polls. A recent survey by Vianovo and GSD&M shows that North Americans' general opinion of Mexico is not very favorable at the moment as the main sources of information about the country are news stories on the escalating violence of the last few years.
But positive signs are around the corner. The Mexican economy is growing and the levels of violence are stabilizing. It's up to the Mexican people to make the necessary strides in education, energy, fiscal and judicial policies that could give the country a new reputation abroad and set the foundations for more domestic stability. In the U.S., the decisive weight of the Latino vote has brought some attention to a resolution on immigration issues and has left many politicians hoping to establish new relationships with Latino voters. A report from a group of Latino leaders, supported by the Pacific Council and Woodrow Wilson Center, suggests for the first time that Latino voters are concerned with foreign policies that have to do with American politics as they relate to Mexico and other countries in the hemisphere.
We can only hope that in the future there will be less political and media attention on Mexico in the U.S., and that what attention there is will be positive, which would allow us to navigate issues of integration between the two countries. The frustration will continue in Mexico, like in Canada, with the U.S.' lack of focus on bilateral relations, but the reality is that they only pay attention to immediate issues. It's better to be in the category of countries that don't see much press but with whom relations are fluid and issues can be resolved swiftly.
This requires careful management of bilateral relations on Mexico's part, setting clear goals and encouraging the countless political, civic and corporate leaders to act and influence the fragmented and decentralized North American politics. The lack of attention on Mexico may be a good thing if it comes with some active lobbying in favor of a clear Mexican agenda.