Mexico: A Bad Neighbor?

By Arturo Franco, Nonresident Senior Fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center

“Mexico is a source of problems for the United States.” That’s the opinion of more than half of all Americans – and two out of every three Republicans – according to a recent opinion survey from Vianovo, which measures attitudes toward Mexico. In other words, we are a bad neighbor.

In general terms, Mexico’s reputation in the U.S. is similar to that of countries like Cuba and Colombia, with an unfavorable opinion of 40-45 percent of those surveyed. This should not necessarily surprise us, considering the kind of news and cultural references received about Mexico in most American homes – from Breaking Bad to Chapo Guzmán. But we should be worried, especially when that’s compared with the 75 percent favorable image of our third trading partner, Canada.

“How would you describe the economy of these countries?” was the question asked of more than 1,000 adults who took part in this survey through YouGov. Just 16 percent thought that Mexico is a “modern” country, while more than 32 percent thought Brazil is. In reality, a large majority of our neighbors think we are an underdeveloped economy.

In 2012, with the same question, Mexico represented a “modern” economy for 20 percent of Americans. The Peña Nieto government appears to have achieved the opposite result to the one he wanted. In 2016, the electoral cycle in the United States has placed Mexico in the eye of a hurricane for its effects on both immigration and the economy.

That’s why the ability to separate fact from fiction today in the relationship between the two countries has become more important than ever. Mexico must offer a depoliticized and objective perspective on what we represent as a trading partner, supplier of human and financial capital and geopolitical ally. Fortunately, a few voices have been raised recently to achieve this.

The Adrienne Arscht Center for Latin America of the Atlantic Council, for example, has launched a campaign called #WhyMexico, whose goal is to lay to rest the myths of the bilateral relationship. It provides some interesting data. For example, the fact that Mexico is the third largest trading partner of the United States and the main export destination of 28 of Mexico’s

32 states. This trade directly supports six million U.S. jobs, and indirectly, 14 million Americans depend on NAFTA for a living.

According to #WhyMexico, with the participation of Mexico and Canada, the United States has a regional market of 480 million people, which enables it to compete better against countries like China. More than one billion dollars cross the Rio Grande every day, representing one of the world’s most active frontiers. And 40 percent of the value of American imports coming from Mexico is generated is the United States.

For those who believe in the construction of an integrated, dynamic and prosperous North America, it’s time to act. Otherwise, next November 9 could be known as Mexit Day.

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