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US and Mexico: Consequential well beyond the border

Dan Restrepo & Stephanie Valencia


Jan 10, 2023

With Biden visiting El Paso and Mexico City, it is critical to remember there is far more to the border, and to the bilateral relationship, than migration

With President Biden visiting El Paso and Mexico City, it is critical to remember there is far more to the border – and to the US-Mexico relationship – than migration.

No country impacts day-to-day life in the United States more than does Mexico. Narratives around migration will undoubtedly dominate much of the news coverage. However, it would be irresponsible at this time, with the continued looming threat of China, to not take a more holistic view of the relationship that is of most consequence to the United States – its partnership with Mexico – from the economic, cultural, and human ties that have and will forever bind us

Without a doubt, having a well-ordered, humane, and just migratory system and the secure border that comes with it is critical. After all, on immigration there is much more agreement among the US public than the political fights in Washington suggest. The American public have consistently displayed support for common sense reforms of the immigration system, pathways to citizenship for Dreamers and even support for asylum access. President Biden’s trip is a reminder we have a lot of work to do on that front. But we cannot let a narrow focus on the border either drown out realistic solutions on migration nor obscure the breath of the critically important US-Mexico relationship - that goes well beyond migration - and our collective responsibility to deepen it.

The US partnership with Mexico is vital to US economic competitiveness – contributing significantly to good-paying jobs throughout the United States and holding the key to producing even more as part of the ongoing jobs recovery. But there can and should be more. US global competitiveness with China depends on a deeper and vibrant relationship between the US, Mexico and Canada.

The deep interconnections between our two countries make everyone on both sides of the border stakeholders in a binational relationship even if they don’t realize it. From the borderland regions of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California to communities many miles away from the border itself - the automobile factories of Detroit and the agricultural processing plants in Iowa.

There is currently $1.98 billion dollars of goods and services traded on an average daily basis between our two countries, with 26 US states listing Mexico as their #1 or #2 export market. North American supply chains that include Mexico are critical to the US auto industry, to putting food on American tables, to creating reliable access to medical equipment, including personal protective equipment, among other key industries. We have a long and rich history together and a shared destiny of future growth. Our leaders must continue to build and strengthen those trade and economic ties that strengthen families on both sides of the border. Those economic benefits can impact areas well beyond the border region itself.

The human ties run even deeper than our commercial ties. People of Mexican origin accounted for nearly 60% (or about 37.2 million people) of the United States’ overall Hispanic population as of 2021. And the largest population of Americans living abroad is in Mexico.

For all these reasons, open dialogue between leaders from both nations on the state and future of US-Mexico relations is imperative, particularly on issues of the economy, technology, entrepreneurship, education and – yes, migration – among other critical topics. This summit is a great opportunity to not only reinforce the positive aspects of the US-Mexico relationship but to chart the next 200 years of sustained cooperation and prosperity.

Last month, when the Equis Institute led a delegation of Mexican-American leaders from a broad spectrum of sectors including arts, culture, business, media, academia, and public policy to Mexico as the bicentennial celebration began on December 12, we saw firsthand how intertwined and rich the histories between our two countries are. The delegation joined Mexican counterparts as well as government officials from both countries for a series of discussions and cultural experiences to pave the way for efforts that will extend throughout the coming year to deepen the relationship between the people of our two countries.

The North American Leaders Summit that US President Joe Biden is attending in Mexico City with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is a critical step in continuing to forge strong partnerships with our closest neighbors. And it could not have come at a better time. When it comes to the US-Mexico bilateral partnership, this trip affords President Biden the opportunity to mark 200 years of formal diplomatic relations between our two countries. Together with President López Obrador, the president can not only celebrate the bicentennial, but he can also help us all reflect on the importance of lifting up an understanding about our two nations that recognizes the full scope of the rich historical, cultural, and economic ties between us.

This week, President Biden will do his part to advance the US-Mexico relationship. In the coming days, weeks and months we all have a responsibility to build out the relationship in ways that improve lives on both sides of our shared border. Afterall, the US-Mexico relationship is too complex and too important to rest solely in the hands of the governments of our two countries, no matter who is in power.

Stephanie Valencia is Co-Founder and President of Equis.

Dan Restrepo served as Special Assistant to President Obama for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

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