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Fostering A New Relationship With Mexico

Presidents Obama and Pena Nieto

The presidential elections in both the United States and Mexico have provided the countries with a rare opportunity for a fresh start. One much needed for both parties involved.

President Barack Obama was recently re-elected for another four-year term in the U.S., while Enrique Peña Nieto was voted president of Mexico.

Peña Nieto’s , a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), election ends the 12 year reign of the National Action Party (PAN) despite concerns that he will not uphold some of the democratic reforms instituted under the last president of Mexico, Felipe Calderon.

Those claims come alongside fears that a Peña Nieto’s administration will return to the "cronyism" that has come to define his party in the past.

Making New Connections

As part of an effort to put those claims to rest, as well as foster a more cordial and cooperative relationship with the United States, President Peña Nieto met with U.S. President Barack Obama in the White House on Tuesday, November 27th.

U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden also attended President Peña Nieto's inauguration ceremony in Mexico on Saturday, December 1st.

The meeting between Obama and Peña Nieto was less than an hour long, but ran the gamut of topics from immigration reform to trade to energy reform.

The two presidents got an opportunity to form face-to-face impressions of each other and lay groundwork for the years to come.

Working towards a good relationship between the U.S. and Mexico is an intelligent move on the part of both countries, if for no other reason than the potential economic benefits to both sides.

Economics, Trade, and Energy

trade with mex

At the moment, the U.S. is Mexico's largest trading partner, with eighty percent of the country's total trade going to us.

Mexico is the U.S.’s third largest trading partner, and the recent manufacturing sector growth there has become a large incentive for business partnerships between the countries.

Both countries are also in the process of negotiating a trade agreement with Asia.

President Peña Nieto is also in favor of energy reforms through privatization of the energy industry in Mexico, as well as immigration reforms that would lead to granting citizenship to roughly six million Mexican immigrants already in the United States.

Challenging Reforms

Peña Nieto has also said that he backs Obama on strengthening the U.S. and Mexican border through strict laws against illegal immigration.

Both of these reform measures are aimed at helping the Mexican economy improve.

An economy which, according to U.S. economist Alberto Ramos, has a large (but currently "trapped") growth potential.

Both of these reforms will also prove challenging to Obama and Peña Nieto because they are not likely to get through the houses of Congress in their respective countries without a heated debate and some degree of compromise.

The Drug Trade & Beyond

mexican drug trafficking

None of the above issues, or any kind of relationship between the U.S. and Mexico, can be addressed without talking about the elephant in the room: the increasingly violent "drug war" that has been raging in Mexico between the cartels and the Mexican government for more than a decade.

This war has claimed the lives of more than 50,000 people since it began and shows no signs of slowing down.

Awareness of this problem in the United States has reached a high point, with around 75% of Americans surveyed citing the drug war as a cause for concern when traveling to Mexico.

In the past, there have been conflicting opinions between our governments regarding the main cause of this drug war.

Some Mexican officials have said that it is the U.S.'s demand for drugs that is allowing the drug trade across the border to thrive, and that the U.S. government has not done enough to stop it on this end.

Peña Nieto plans to change the manner in which the Mexican government is fighting this war by shifting the focus to the street level and providing more training and responsibility to the police force rather than the military.

With Colorado and Washington recently legalizing marijuana for recreational use, one of the major drugs exported from Mexico, other states following suit may affect the drug trade from the U.S. end.

It will be a long, difficult journey for both countries, but it's beginning seems to have an optimistic outlook.

Perhaps if that optimism is maintained, the U.S. and Mexico can achieve change.

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