Washington, D.C. — As Mexico prepares to inaugurate Enrique Peña Nieto as its new president on Saturday, the Center for American Progress released “The United States and Mexico: The Path Forward,” which discusses the challenges and opportunities for the U.S.-Mexico relationship as he takes office.
The fate of Peña Nieto’s reform agenda will arguably be the new president’s greatest and most immediate test. If he succeeds in effectively addressing the three policy fields that he has promised to reform, perhaps all at once—energy, taxes, and Social Security—he will have restructured a significant part of Mexico’s economy, preparing Mexico for an economic takeoff that could rival Asian economies. Failing with these fundamental reforms, however, could throw Peña Nieto’s presidency into turmoil at its inception.
Each of these reforms individually would be enough to occupy the Presidential Palace Los Pinos for months and soak up the political capital of any president. Doing all of them together would be a political project more involved than any other since the Institutional Revolutionary Party first restructured Mexico’s economy in the 1930s. Clearly, the political stakes are huge. But a major obstacle to reform could be the Institutional Revolutionary Party itself. Party discipline will largely ensure a supportive if not compliant congressional delegation, but party bosses, governors, and individual congressional representatives, among others, will likely seek to ensure that their political equities are protected in any reform process.
On the economic front, the success of the new Mexican administration’s economic reform and growth agenda is a core interest of the United States. A number of policy fields will be crucial in creating a successful North American growth model and elevating the transactional partnership with Mexico to a strategic relationship much like the United States enjoys with Canada. To achieve this goal, both countries must address a number of issues simultaneously which include:
- Job creation through increased U.S-Mexican trade in the border region and beyond
- Greater energy independence for both countries through the prioritization of research and development to ensure that technologies that facilitate access to shale gas do not adversely affect the environment—a necessary step to move forward in developing these resources
- Meaningful carbon pollution reductions in North America by incorporating Mexican states along the U.S. border as full partners in the Western Climate Initiative, instead of as the official observers that they are at present
- Expanded U.S. and Mexican economic relations with Asia and Europe
- The reduction of violence and strengthening of the judicial branch in Mexico, which needs to be framed as a joint challenge, emphasizing the co-responsibility of the United States which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has expressed several times
- The re-launch of a U.S.-Mexican bilateral commission to institutionalize cabinet-level discussions across the broad range of issues that affect our countries, occasionally including Canada in trilateral talks and establishing permanent working groups to help change the image and perception of Mexico in the United States and vice versa
The election of Enrique Peña Nieto and the re-election of President Barack Obama mean the U.S.-Mexican relationship has a unique opportunity to grow closer and bring numerous benefits to both sides of the border. To fully appreciate this unique opportunity, both sides must invest political capital and be prepared to engage domestic public opinion when it comes to explaining why our countries are united by much more than a fence.
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