What Obama Can Achieve in Mexico

At a recent panel at the Americas Society, a Washington D.C. think tank, he suggested that Obama and Peña Nieto try to come up with regulations that make it easier for companies on both sides of the border to work together and export their products to the rest of the world.

"We need to find ways to not diminish the security of the border, but still expand and enable the commercial movement of goods," Jones said.

Another issue that both presidents should take a look at is NAFTA's legacy, says, Raul Gutierrez, a Mexican industrialist who leads the steel products group Deacero.

At the same panel at the Americas Society, Gutierrez mentioned that since this free trade agreement was implemented in 1994, the real minimum wage has fallen in Mexico by 25 percent. Under NAFTA, the number of Mexicans living in poverty has increased by 11 million, and more than 2,000 small exporting companies have closed. Mexican exports meanwhile only contain 30 percent of national content, and exports that come out of the assembly plants along the border, known as Maquiladoras, only average 3 percent of national content.

Gutierrez said that things could've been worse for Mexico, if NAFTA had not been implemented. But he argued that the U.S. and Mexico must find ways to boost Mexico's ailing manufacturing sector in order to create jobs in the country and prosperous conditions that would stop people from entering organized crime networks.

"A strong Mexican economy is in the security interests of the U.S.," Gutierrez said. "The U.S. will do well to think of North American competitiveness and not just its own in confronting the challenges of China," Gutierrez added, arguing that a more prosperous Mexico would also be a good market for U.S. companies.


Mexico's president has been rather silent on this issue, saying only that he "fully supports" Obama's push for immigration reform. Back in November when he visited Obama in Washington, Peña Nieto said that rather than making "demands" on the U.S. President and the U.S. Congress, on behalf of the six million undocumented Mexican immigrants who live in the U.S., he wants to "contribute," to Obama's solution.

Peña Nieto may believe that Obama is on the right track, with regards to immigration reform, and that any attempts by his government to get involved in U.S. politics would backfire, and delay Obama's plans.

Alex Sanchez from the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, says that Peña Nieto's statements of support, which are likely to be repeated during this visit by Obama, are somewhat helpful.

"It's symbolic, of course, and it won't make Republicans back Obama's plan. But it looks good for Obama to get some sort of backing from the country where most immigrants come from."

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