Mexico: A Push for Reform

Antonio O. Garza (Ambassador to Mexico, 2002-2009)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Garza’s November newsletter.

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Later this morning, I’ll be headed north from my Mexico City office to Texas in order to appear with Mexico’s Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo and North American Development Bank president Geronimo Gutierrez at a U.S.-Mexico High Level Economic Dialogue forum in San Antonio. I’m sure among the things we’ll talk about is the reform push currently underway in Mexico.

Nearing his one-year anniversary mark, President Enrique Peña Nieto has amassed an impressive list of accomplishments, including labor, telecommunications, financial and education reforms. Fiscal, energy and political reform measures also have been wending their way through the legislative process, generating heated debate as political leaders and competing interests wrangle over specifics of the proposed bills. Duncan Wood, via the Wilson Quarterly, offers an overview of this year of ambitious reforms, with an emphasis on the all-important energy overhaul. For an interesting (if perhaps too tempered) take on Mexico’s prospects for true reform under a PRI president, published in the World Affairs Journal, read here. The many unknowns surrounding the major pieces of reform legislation in Mexico means there will be much to watch in the weeks leading up to the close of the Congressional session on December 15.

The legislative achievements and multi-party compromises forged over the last twelve months by Mexico’s Congress stand in stark contrast to the record amassed by the 113th U.S. Congress. The 16-day U.S. government shutdown and the threat of a debt default exposed (again) severe governmental dysfunction in Washington. Much of the focus in the U.S. media has been on expanding public disapproval of Congress and the domestic political consequences of the debacle in D.C.. There are serious spillover effects internationally as well, as outlined here by Daniel Drezner for Foreign Policy and in this piece from the Christian Science Monitor on the view from Mexico. The Brookings Institution has a series on what Washington’s repeated brinksmanship means for public policy and the future of governance; I think you’ll find it worth consideration.

With all the upset emanating from Washington (the fallout from the revelations of NSA surveillance is another major story line), attention to developments in the global economy are easily overlooked. The IMF’s most recent global snapshot revealed a strengthening of performance in most advanced economies and continued growth in emerging markets, though not as robustly as in the recent past. Trade, as The Economist underscored in a recent special report, could provide the boost the world’s economy needs. But as the magazine reported here, multilateral trade liberalization is increasingly difficult to achieve, in part due to a rising preference for regional agreements that do not necessarily promote the kind of globalization of free and fair trade long sought by the U.S. and Europe.

As we approach the 20th anniversary of NAFTA, it seems an appropriate time to reaffirm the U.S.’s commitment to free trade. Bringing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement to fruition would be a good place to start. The ambitious free trade deal includes the U.S. (which joined the negotiations in 2008) and 11 other countries of the Asia-Pacific region, including Mexico (along with Chile and Peru from Latin America). The agreement seeks to eliminate tariffs and non-tariff barriers to trade in goods, services and agriculture and to establish rules on a wide range of issues including foreign direct investment and other economic activities. The TPP is often referred to as the first “21st century free trade agreement” in that seeks to address new and cross-cutting issues presented by an increasingly globalized, technology-driven, economy. And, as The Economist article I alluded to earlier makes clear, there is no quicker way to economic prosperity than through trade.

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