Issues Navigator

Global Challenges

Strategic Regions

Domestic Debates

Tag cloud

See All Tags

August 20, 2007 |  4 comments |  Print  Your Opinion  

Philipp S. Mueller

Europeans Ignore Mexico At Their Peril

Philipp S. Mueller: Mexico is the ignored elephant on the transatlantic agenda. This OECD country of 105 million people is an economic heavyweight that both Europe and the US have underestimated. What are you waiting for, policy entrepreneurs?

Today marks the third annual trilateral summit between the United States, Canada, and Mexico on the 2005 Security and Prosperity Partnership Agreement (SPP). US President Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Harper, and Mexican President Calderón are expected to discuss further aid to Mexico in the war on drugs that began when Calderón took over the presidency on December 1, 2006.

Who’s Part of the Atlantic Community?
The European press has reported sparingly on the summit, with the perspective of an outsider that has no stake in the debate. There has been little talk about a common North American political project. When Europeans think of the Atlantic Community, we think of Europe and the United States. There was a fairly successful movement in the 1990s to include a focus on Canada, when studying North-Atlantic relations, which has added value to the discourse. Mexico, however, remains under-appreciated in US, Canadian, and European policy discourse.

Inexplicably Overlooked
Mexico should be the most important topic on the US foreign policy agenda and a high priority for the transatlantic relationship. It is neither. Even the development community does not focus on Mexico anymore, since it has outgrown the status of a developing country. With the United States, Canada and Mexico now coordinating efforts on both security and trade, why is this US border country absent from discussions on European cooperation with North America?

The simple answer might be closest to the truth: Mexico has always been analyzed as part of the portfolio of development studies, Latin American studies, and leftist political theory. The country has not figured into security studies, geo-politics, or any other subfield of high politics of interest to self-described “Atlanticists.”

Obvious Importance
With a population of 105 million, Mexico is an interesting case of an ignored elephant. Its per-capita GDP is around 10 times that of China. Mexico is the third-largest US trading partner, barely behind China, and a member of the OECD. Around 10% of US citizens are of Mexican descent, and another 10 to 20 million illegal aliens participate in the US economy. Mexico is one of the main oil-producing countries of the world and the main supplier for illegal drugs in the United States. The richest man in the world is from Mexico, and Mexican multinational companies like CEMEX control most of the market for “building solutions” in both the US and Germany. And German industries, especially automotive companies, have established major manufacturing bases in Mexico to comply with NAFTA local content rules and to be closer to the US market.

Building New Bridges
How can we get Mexico onto the transatlantic agenda? A lot can be learned from the classic Atlantic bridge idea, where institutions like the German Marshall Fund, US Fulbright Commission, and the American Institute of Contemporary German Studies have created a sustainable community of like-minded experts. Efforts like the Mexico Project by the Harvard Kennedy School and EGAP-Tec de Monterrey or the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American studies are a step in the right direction.

Now all that is missing are policy entrepreneurs on the European side. We need more Atlanticists who are willing to bridge the gap and enrich the discourse with a Mexican perspective.


Parts of this article first appeared as an entry on the author’s blog.

Philipp S. Mueller is Associate Professor at the Graduate School for Public Administration and Public Policy of Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico (EGAP-Tec de Monterrey) and adjunct professor at the Salzburg School of Management. He is currently on academic leave pursuing research on governance in network society. Until July 2007 he was director of the Master?s in Public Administration and Public Policy (MAP) and before 2003, senior research associate at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin.

  • 1
  •  
  •  
  • No rating possible
  • No rating possible
I like this Article! What's this?

 
 
Comments
David  Vollmer

August 20, 2007

  • 3
  •  
  •  
  • No rating possible
  • No rating possible
I like this comment! What's this?
"The country has not figured into security studies, geo-politics, or any other subfield of high politics of interest to self-described “Atlanticists.”"

How many troops has Mexico sent to Kosovo, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Lebanon, or Iraq?
I don't understand why you complain about the lack of attention Mexico gets in transatlantic security studies and geopolitics. What do you have against "self-described Atlanticists"?

"Even the development community does not focus on Mexico anymore, since it has outgrown the status of a developing country."

So you think Mexico's economic success is a bad thing?

Why should Mexico be "a high priority for the transatlantic relationship" ?
What is the problem that needs a transatlantic solution?

Mexico is a problem for the US: illegal immigrants and drugs. Thus the US is dealing with Mexio. But why should Mexio be on the transatlantic agenda. Europe does not have the same problems with Mexico which the US has. Europe gets its drugs from Asia and Africa rather than Mexico.
European companies invest in Mexico and make profits. Fine.

I really don't understand why "we" have to get "Mexico onto the transatlantic agenda." Please enlighten me.
 
Christoph  Suess

August 22, 2007

  • 0
  •  
  •  
  • No rating possible
  • No rating possible
I like this comment! What's this?
Dear David,

you make some good points here and pose some legitimate questions, though I think your misinterpreted Mr. Mueller a bit.

I don't think that he sees Mexico's economic development negatively. In fact, he tries to raise awareness for the big potential the country has - economically AND politically.

Mexico certainly does not "deserve" to have a large share in the security debate today, given its still near absence in international politics.

However, I share Mr. Mueller's view that "real" Atlanticists should nowadays include not also Canada but also Mexico in the Atlantic community.

There are taking place all kinds of cooperative efforts in North America - for example on environmental policy, mainly driven by the NAFTA agenda, and most Europeans seem to be completely unaware of that. Of course, Canada and Mexico are still rather "spokes", centered around the US "hub", and there is still only limited trilateral cooperation. But since North America's integration is probably going to increase in the years ahead, it may be wise for "real" Atlanticists to include Mexico in the Atlantic community in the future.
 
Lorena  Ruano

August 22, 2007

  • 4
  •  
  •  
  • No rating possible
  • No rating possible
I like this comment! What's this?
Mexico is in part to blame for the situation. It has been the one to ignore the rest of the world for much of its independent history. As a developing country, it has concentrated on its internal stability and development and has avoided participating in world politics as much as possible, for fear of its effect on internal politics. One of its consitutional principles on foreign policy has been that of "non intervention", keeping it, as David rightly points out, away from peace keeping operations and, for a long time, from the Security Council of the UN. The great geopolitical issues at a global and transatlantic level have been totally secondary to the country's main interest: its bilateral relationship with the US. Even in North America, should Mexico have an opinion about Canada's concerns about the North Pole? I am not so sure. At the Latin American level, Mexico has never displayed an hegemonic vocation, like Brazil, for example. It has been quite inward-looking.
On the other hand, Mexico has an Association Agreement with the EU, of which an important component is that of "political dialogue", where common views on multilateral issues are discussed. The only other country in the region to have such a close relationship with Europe is Chile. So it is not exact to say that Europeans ignore Mexico.
Rather, they see it as a central counterpart in their relation with Latin America, instead of a partner in the Transatlantic Community. This is probably correct, given the kind of issues that interest the country. It might now belong to the OECD, and not be eligible to much of the aid on offer, but it still has the politcal en economic structure of a developing country. Half of the population is still poor, despite the "economic success". It is also a democratizing country with many difficulties in articulating a new view of its role in world politics. So, the situation has been changing gradually since 2000, and Mexico is now willing to participate in the UNSC as well as in the global regime of human rights, and the ICC, for example.

 
Ricardo Alfonso Martinez

September 6, 2007

  • 0
  •  
  •  
  • No rating possible
  • No rating possible
I like this comment! What's this?
I really don't understand why a country should be considered on a strategic region just because of the number of soldiers sent to x number of wars. Mexico has been an ignored elephant for most of the reasons that all of you have said, but let's talk about some others.

How about distrust. US Inteligence has never shared information with Mexico because of that. Drug related corruption could be one reason of that lack of trust, but at the bottom there are cultural disagreements in US elites to consider Mexico as an ally. They think of Mexico as the leftist country who always played with the love of USSR and US to their benefit. We can also consider some racial criteria on this "ignorance" from the United States.

But, why Europe? Is it just lack of understanding of the important role Mexico is going to play in the future? Probably here I can use a word professor Mueller taugth me: Path dependency?

China is going to play an important role in changing how Europeans and Americans see Mexico. Probably what Europeans need to focus more on our region is a potential competitor taking advantage of the ignored elephant.
Tags: | Mexico | Europe | China |
 

Commenting has been deactivated in the archive. We appreciate your comments on our more recent articles at atlantic-community.org


Community

You are in the archive of all articles published on atlantic-community.org from 2007 to 2012. To read the latest articles from our open think tank and network with community members, please go to our new website