National Security

The United States Does Not Need a Higher Wall

May 10, 2016

Despite numerous and complex bilateral issues, Mexico is an important strategic partner for the United States. Likewise, the United States is without a doubt key for the Mexican economy. This is easily forgotten when representatives of the most backward sectors of both countries express their views in the media and political venues. Nonetheless, a few key pieces of data illustrate the importance of our partnership.

Mexico has become a thriving open economy, worth more than US$ 1.3 trillion a year — and growing. It has recently overtaken Spain as the world’s 12th largest economy and is projected to overcome the United Kingdom in terms of purchasing power parity in the next few years.

While our country still faces major challenges (such as rising violence), trade between Mexico and the United States has increased fivefold to more than US$500 billion a year since the onset of NAFTA twenty years ago.

Foreign direct investment between the two countries exceeds US$100 billion, with about one-fifth of this figure coming from projects undertaken by Mexican companies in the United States. I am talking about truly global corporations as Grupo Bimbo, Cemex, America Movil, Grupo Maseca, and my own company Grupo Salinas, among hundreds of other firms that have much to offer millions of consumers in the United States. In other words, Mexican companies invest tens of billions of dollars in the United States that directly create thousands of jobs.

In fact, it was estimated in 2013 by the Woodrow Wilson Center that more than six million U.S. jobs depended directly on our bilateral relationship, and the same can be said of an even larger number of jobs in Mexico. From activities such as trade and services to logistics and finance, there are very few industries today that don’t benefit from our alliance. This also holds true for cities and entire regions.

Dozens of cities on both sides of the border are gradually being incorporated into this strategic partnership, creating thousands of new jobs every year. Only an extreme and outdated view can prevent a true business leader from considering the infinite possibilities offered by our bilateral relationship.

According to the Woodrow Wilson Center, Mexico is the main export market for five US states: California, New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, and New Hampshire, and it is the second most important destination for international sales of 17 other states.

Today, Mexico has become the world’s seventh largest motor vehicle manufacturer, and our auto industry is an integral part of its U.S. counterpart. One by one, many other economic activities are strengthened by the tremendous complementarity of our economies.

Exports of Mexican manufactured goods have surpassed those of all the other Latin American countries together. Mexico has signed 12 trade treaties with 42 countries, more than any other nation in the world — not considering the Trans Pacific Partnership which has not entered into force.

Our trade-friendly environment represents a great opportunity for thousands of U.S. companies to expand their global presence, as hundreds of them have already done. To truly understand the potential of this alliance, it should be emphasized that our bilateral relationship is not a zero-sum game: it’s a win-win situation that deserves to be taken to its full potential.

Today, for the United States, Mexico represents much more than drugs, crime, and irregular migration. A higher wall benefits no one except for a handful of contractors. What a true statesman should seriously consider is how we can take this economic relationship to its full potential, for the benefit of the 400 million people in our two nations.

Ricardo B. Salinas is chairman and founder of Grupo Salinas and a member of the board of trustees of the Aspen Institute. The opinions expressed in this piece are those of the author and may not necessarily represent the view of the Aspen Institute.