The U.S. Congress is an important player in the relationship with Mexico. Dialogue with Congress should be intensified.
In recent weeks, American delegates have expressed concern about the Biden administration’s policy decisions in Mexico: electricity reforms, Mexico’s position on the war in Ukraine and the creation of the Mexico-Russia friendship committee.
Congress is relevant to foreign policy for several reasons: It has jurisdiction over laws related to immigration and trade. The most important committees for these two issues are the Judiciary Committee in both chambers, the Finance Committee in the Senate and the Ways and Means Committee in the House of Representatives, which oversees the implementation of trade agreements, including the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
Congress approves the budget through the Appropriations Committee. Every resource devoted to foreign policy, development cooperation and financing international organizations and other countries is reviewed by them. Finally, the Foreign Affairs committees in both chambers oversee U.S. foreign policy; the Senate committee ratifies the appointments of ambassadors and senior State Department officials.
Partisan division and a series of caucuses or interest groups operate within Congress. There are progressives, African Americans and, in the case of Mexico, the “Hispanic Caucus,” made up of delegates of Hispanic origin, mostly Mexican. This group was instrumental in passing USMCA and plays a key role in allocating budgets to projects that are important to the Hispanic community.
Such is the strength of Congress that all the embassies in Washington have special monitoring sections. Many countries pay for lobbying services to gain access to the most powerful members of Congress and influence decisions that affect their countries.
During the two years I was an ambassador in Washington, NO lobbyist services were paid for and there was a fluid dialogue with senators and representatives on issues related to Mexico and the ratification of USMCA. I dedicated a lot of my time to Congress, where I had to constantly explain the Mexican government’s positions, identify possible crises and prevent them from erupting. The embassy interacted with the congressional teams and followed up on initiatives that could affect our country.
In this context, dismissing pronouncements by U.S. delegates as interventionist without understanding how they work or their importance, and without identifying those who subscribe to that belief, means failing to understand the central role of the U.S. Congress in its relationship with Mexico.
Democrats and Republicans are upset with the Mexican government for different reasons; they will continue to exert pressure. The Mexican government needs to strengthen its dialogue with Congress.