A Strong North America


Ever since Mexico has been independent, it has had to deal with a complicated northern neighbor that, after World War II, succeeded in becoming the greatest economic and military power.

The relationship between the two countries experienced its greatest crisis after the armed conflict of 1848, which resulted in the loss of more than half of Mexico’s territory. For decades, this episode produced in Mexicans – perhaps justifiably – a certain patriotic unity in opposition to the United States, which official histories have emphasized.

Notwithstanding this, for some years now, large sectors of the Mexican and U.S. populations have learned to set aside this viewpoint, and have started seeing our relationship in a different light.

Despite this, judging by the remarks of President Donald Trump, it would appear that Mexico is not now the ally that at least since the Kennedy administration, the U.S. has found in our country. It would also appear that, even with our 3,142-kilometer border, (approximately 1,952 miles) we are not partners to the extent we might be. And it would appear that the cooperation Mexico provides the United States on matters such as security is not essential for its citizens to sleep peacefully at night.

But Trump is mistaken. The signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement during Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari ‘s term shook up the region. It is the world’s biggest trade agreement, it impacts a market of 482 million people (7 percent of the world’s population), generates 28 percent of the world’s gross domestic product, and 16 percent of world trade takes place within it. Even for the president-elect, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, preserving the agreement is a priority.*

According to data from the Migration Policy Institute, it is estimated that around 23.2 million first-generation or second-generation Mexicans live in the United States.

Moreover, agreements on security issues, such as the Mérida Initiative (2008), demonstrate that Mexico is ready to work hand in hand with the United States on regional problems, aligning objectives and recognizing shared responsibilities. Just this week, there was an announcement about the formation of a group, based in Chicago, to coordinate efforts against Nemesio Oseguera, El Mencho.* Oseguera is a priority for the Drug Enforcement Administration, but the Mexican government has not been able to detain him.

But, also because of President Trump’s speech, it would appear that his administration does not understand that with China’s military and economic growth, it is likely that within the next decade, the U.S. will no longer be the “system administrator” for the world, and a new international order will be imposed. Yet once again, he is mistaken.

There are many eminent voices advocating the consolidation of North America. For example, Alan Bersin, who was acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, has said that the United States has two natural allies with whom it shares borders and regional problems. For him, the future of the United States necessarily is the future of North America.

Also, Nicholas Burns, Harvard professor and former U.S. ambassador to NATO, has said that it is quite possible that, as a result of China’s rapid growth, his country may cease to have the power and influence it has had up until now if it continues to consider itself as an independent nation. However, it will be different if integration efforts continue.

In addition to Bersin and Burns, there are hundreds of professors, economists, political scientists and public servants in Mexico and Canada as well as in the United States, that understand that the potential of the region is greater than the potential of the individual countries that make it up.

If the United States wants to keep up its international leadership in the face of China and other powers, it needs to have Mexico and Canada as allies in a strong North America, primarily on strategic issues such as the economy, energy, the environment and security.

With a government like Donald Trump’s, the challenge is huge for the incoming administration of López Obrador and his team, because it has to show that the best interests of the region lie in integration and cooperation. But if the U.S. is not interested in working with us and treating us as strategic partners, Mexico can survive and grow with new allies.

*Editor’s note: President Trump announced on Aug. 27, that the U.S. and Mexico had reached an agreement to revise key portions of NAFTA.

** Translator’s note: Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, alias El Mencho, is a suspected Mexican drug lord and leader of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, based in the Mexican state of Jalisco. He is one of the most wanted criminals in the U.S. and Mexico.

The author holds a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University

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