Why Mexico Is More Important Than Ever for America

Joel Martinez

No other country affects the day to day lives of Americans more than Mexico does.

Mexico is the United States’ top trading partner and most important ally. Yet, ahead of the 2020 election, one can expect President Donald Trump to put Mexico in his crosshairs again as he did throughout his 2016 presidential run. If so, Trump and his defenders will use nativist rhetoric to stoke the anxiety and resentment of his base toward the growing interconnectedness of the world. And Mexico will again become a proxy, through immigration and trade, in the U.S. public debate. This, of course, is a wrong-headed tactic. 

The United States and Mexico are bound to a shared cultural, economic, environmental, and demographic destiny. The most obvious example is the U.S. Latino population, which reached a record 59.9 million people in 2018, that’s 18 percent of the total U.S. population—60 percent (36.6 million) of the U.S. Latino population is of Mexican origin. Likewise, the U.S.-Mexico border region alone represents a combined population of approximately fifteen million people—if considered a stand-alone entity it would be one of the world’s largest economies. 

Instead of taking advantage of the fact that the U.S. has a neighbor that also strives to achieve security, growth, and competitiveness, the Trump administration’s response has been to place this vital relationship at a delicate tipping point, where the United States either acknowledges and appreciates the real dynamics at the heart of the U.S.-Mexico relationship or creates substantial damages that will take years to rectify. 

U.S.-Mexico relations have grown closer and friendlier within the last two decades through increasing trade flows, cross-border energy production, and environmental management, and most importantly, jointly combating the illicit flows of goods and people throughout the U.S.-Mexico border. But in the not-too-distant past, cooperation between the two neighbors was limited due to U.S. distrust of Mexican officials and Mexican sensitivity about U.S. involvement in Mexico’s domestic affairs.

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