Trade integration has been a central element of U.S.-Mexico relations for the past quarter century. The renegotiation of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) presented a formidable challenge for two neighboring countries who also manage a complex border agenda including immigration and drug control. As President Trump considered terminating NAFTA and continues to press for the construction of a border wall, the risks of deteriorating bilateral relations increased. Against these odds, the NAFTA parties successfully concluded negotiations this fall. How were the United States and Mexico able to keep relations on an even keel in the midst of tough trade negotiations? What was accomplished or not in the newly baptized U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement? How did other areas of the bilateral relation evolve during this period of uncertainty regarding the future of economic integration? What are the prospects for U.S.-Mexico relations going forward?
On November 20, Brookings Foreign Policy Senior Fellows Mireya Solís and Vanda Felbab-Brown engaged Mexico’s Ambassador to the United States Gerónimo Gutiérrez Fernández and Wilson Center Public Policy Fellow Earl Anthony “Tony” Wayne, who also served as former U.S. ambassador to Mexico and assistant secretary of state, in a discussion of the state of U.S.-Mexico relations at present and going forward.
Ambassador of Mexico to the United States
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AAPI Heritage Month: Safeguarding Asian American inclusion and belonging
President López Obrador's extension of the term of Supreme Court chief Arturo Zaldívar is part of his strong effort to recentralize power in the Mexican presidency and hollow out the independence and power of other Mexican institutions. His other moves to bend the justice system to his will include a reform that lowered the salary of judges but did not improve the quality of prosecutors and his unwillingness to allow an independent selection of the attorney general, with López Obrador himself retaining the power of appointment. His latest move with the two-year extension of Zaldívar’s term is especially worrisome. Zaldívar is also the president of the powerful Federal Judiciary Council. The council appoints and dismisses judges, sets career advancement rules and disciplines judges. Zaldívar will be setting the council’s and, thus, the whole judiciary’s, agenda and priorities for two years. This allows López Obrador to influence how courts will rule in cases regarding the executive branch, what cases they take up and the legality of new policies. These moves are taking place when the effectiveness of the judiciary in Mexico remains limited and deeply concerning. The attorney general’s office has proven weak, unwilling to take up key cases such as against the suspects in the brazen attack on Mexico City’s security minister, Omar García Harfuch—an event that symbolized the impunity with which Mexican criminal groups operate. Mexico’s justice system showed itself equally meek and disappointing in inadequately investigating the alleged complicity of former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos and dismissing the case, potentially the most significant case of corruption and criminal collusion charges against a high-ranking Mexican official in two decades. A decade and a half after Mexico initiated its justice system reforms, 95 percent of federal cases still go unpunished. President López Obrador has scored some points, but the already precariously weak rule of law in Mexico, and thus the Mexican people, will suffer.