Mexico, North America and Latin America

Bearing in mind that more than 80% of Mexico’s foreign trade is with its North American partners, the bigger picture is more complex.

“Mexico is doing well due to, among other reasons, the free trade agreement” with the United States and Canada, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said on Friday, in an acknowledgement that, while not strange, seemed somewhat odd. The point was accompanied by reiterating the Mexican government’s interest in Latin America.

In recent months, relations with the United States have been dominated by controversies over energy and, as recently as last week, by the dispute over Mexico’s refusal to buy genetically modified corn.

But, as has been repeated more than once, such issues are a matter for lawyers, legal interpretations that would be a mistake to bring into the political debate.

Obrador has stressed that “Mexico is one of, if not the most, attractive country for foreign investment, because of the treaty with the U.S. and Canada,” a point that reinforces the idea that Mexico’s main connection is with the North American region, both in terms of geographical proximity and for economic and social integration. Of the 12.2 million Mexicans living outside the country in 2020, 11.75 million were in the U.S. and 125,000 in Canada. The rest were spread across more than 150 countries.

Taking into account that more than 80% of Mexican foreign trade is with its North American partners, the bigger picture is more complex. “The proximity helps a lot, the proximity of the market. That is why Mexico is attractive, because we have thousands of kilometers of border with the U.S., the primary world market,” he added, while recalling that next January he will meet with U.S. President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Mexico.

Whether this means he will recognize the bilateral disputes remains to be seen, although there are signs of reconciliation, comments on the need for collaboration, and cooperation on issues such as migration and the environment. It’s strange because the Mexican president is better known for his criticism of American “interventionist” attempts and his declarations of rapprochement with Latin America than for his express recognition of the importance of the bilateral relationship.

These statements were accompanied by reiterating his idea to promote continental integration based on a model similar to that of the European Union.

The issue is all the stranger because some of Obrador’s alleged Latin American allies, identified as left-wing government leaders of the “pink tide,” seem to lean toward the ideas of Latin American integration promoted by the Puebla Group, based on the dreams of Brazil and the figurehead of Brazilian Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

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