Let’s look south with fresh eyes


November 29, 2012 - 12:00 AM

Guess which nation is the largest exporter of flat screen televisions. Not China. Not any of the Asian Tigers. No, its our neighbor to the south — Mexico. Mexico also leads the world in exporting BlackBerry smart phones and refrigerator-freezers.
Economists calculate that by 2018 — only five years away — Americans will import more from Mexico than from any other country. As the Economist magazine observed, “Made in China” is giving way to “Hecho en Mexico.”
U.S. political pollsters learned Nov. 6 that Hispanics made the difference in the presidential election. What they didn’t broadcast was that the immigration rate has slowed to a trickle. As a matter of fact, recent statistics show that more Mexicans and other Spanish-speakers are moving back home from the U.S. than are coming north because job opportunities are better there. The unemployment rate in Mexico is about half that of the U.S.
Mexico’s booming economy is bringing other changes that rising personal wealth creates. In the 1960s, the Economist reported, the average Mexican woman had seven children. She now has two. Within a decade Mexico’s fertility rate will fall below that of the United States. The number of potential border-hoppers is falling rapidly.
But the U.S. has been slow to recognize what’s going on with its very-important neighbor. We are busy building border fences and subjecting every vehicle that crosses the 2,000-mile border to cubic-inch by cubic-inch searches and reams of paperwork when we should be partnering with Mexican businesses to create more jobs on both sides of the border. In terms of gross national product, Mexico ranks just ahead of South Korea. In 2011, the Mexican economy grew faster than Brazil’s. Economists expect it to do it again in 2012.
And Mexicans are very much a part of U.S. life. About one in 10 Mexican citizens lives in the U.S. Add in their American-born children, the Economist article reports, and that makes about 33 million people — or about a 10th of the U.S. population.
Clearly, the U.S. government and Americans in general need to pay far more attention to Mexico, to learn about its extraordinary progress and to explore ways to work as closely with Mexico and Mexicans as we work with Canada and Canadians.

WORKING TOGETHER on the inter-connected problems of violence in Mexico and along the border and the importation of illegal drugs would be a good place to start. Mexico’s effort to control its drug cartels has resulted in 60,000 deaths. That violence can be reduced by better police work in Mexico. But the U.S. can help by stopping the flow of automatic rifles and pistols into Mexico from our country and by finding ways to make selling drugs to Americans less profitable.
Mexico’s outgoing president, Felipe Calderon, said it is “impossible” to stop the drug trade. Impossible because it is so enormously profitable. A huge percentage of that profit comes from U.S. addicts and recreational users. It is a corollary fact that U.S. drug buyers and arms dealers are responsible for tens of thousands of Mexican drug war deaths. We should consider it our problem and join with Mexico to fight it more successfully.
On a more positive front, the United States and Mexico also can work more closely together on the development of Mexico’s untapped and unmeasured stores of oil and natural gas. Energy independence for our tri-country region — Canada, the United States and Mexico — is a very real possibility.

— Emerson Lynn, jr.

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