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Mexico, US commit to getting beyond stereotypes

US President Barack Obama and his host, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, emphasised this week a new phase in ties between the two countries, one that focuses more on their economic partnership and moves away from stereotypes and traditional problems. “It’s time for us to put the old mindsets aside,” Obama said Friday.

“The great partnership between our two countries will not simply continue. It’s going to go stronger and become broader,” he said. Indeed, Obama’s fourth visit to Mexico as president contained the declared will to move away from immigration and security, the classic core of relations between the two nations, away from prejudice and what Obama defined as “distortions.” “It’s time to recognise new realities, including the impressive progress of today’s Mexico,” he said.

While Obama has talked about a relationship of equal partners, it somehow sounded different this week. The rhetoric came packed with figures: Mexico is the second-largest export market for US goods, bigger than the so-called BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) taken together, Obama noted. The Mexican economy is much smaller than that of its northern neighbour, but it is the world’s 14th largest. And, as Pena Nieto pointed out, 40 per cent of the inputs needed to put together Mexico’s exports actually come from the United States.

The two economies are in many ways intertwined, not least through the millions of Mexicans or people of Mexican descent who live and work in the United States, legally or illegally. “We believe in Mexico and want to be a partner in your success,” Obama said. Obama and Pena Nieto highlighted the need to strengthen that partnership, and the fact that strengthening it requires a wider focus that moves away from the traditional issues of the bi-national debate.

“Mexico and the United States have one of the largest, most dynamic relationships of any two countries on Earth. And yet, we don’t always hear about all aspects of these extraordinary ties because too often two issues get attention: security or immigration,” Obama admitted. Obama and Pena Nieto agreed on the need for immigration reform in the United States and for further institutional reform in Mexico, and they discussed Mexico’s ongoing and bloody war on the drug gangs.

The two issues remain thorny when it comes to real life, even if Pena Nieto and Obama agree in principle. However, both know that solving them will, like so many other things, take a joint effort. Obama acknowledged the United States’ “responsibility” for the southward flow of guns and cash that fuel the violence, and he spoke loud and clear on the need for reform of an immigration system which, he said, does not reflect US values.

On both immigration and gun control his domestic stance is well known and brings him close to the demands of Mexican authorities, although the US Congress has a mind of its own. However, Obama made no secret of the need for Mexico to do its share through economic development. “The long-term solution to the challenge of illegal immigration is a growing and prosperous Mexico that creates more jobs and opportunities for young people here,” Obama said.

Obama’s brief visit to Mexico this week, lasting less than 24 hours, saw a change in the tone of US-Mexican relations. “I believe we’ve got a historic opportunity to foster even more co-operation, more trade, more jobs on both sides of the border,” Obama said. However, he warned Mexico that its current status as a top priority in the US agenda would take further effort. The United States will be “rooting” for its neighbour’s success, Obama said, but while it remains a partner and is willing to make a contribution it cannot prevent disappointment if Mexico fails to do its share.

“Nothing is inevitable. Progress and success is never guaranteed. The future that you dream of, the Mexico you imagine, it must be built. It must be earned,” Obama told an audience of Mexican students. “Nobody else can do it for you. Only you can earn it.”

Veronica Sardon, "Mexico, US commit to getting beyond stereotypes," Business recorder. 2013-05-05.
Keywords: Social issues , Social needs , Social problems , Political leaders , International relations , President Obama , United States , Brazil , Russia , India , China , Mexico