Why We Don’t Need a Higher Wall

In spite of what other businessmen may say, Mexico is much more than drugs, crime and illegal immigration: it has become a US$1.3 trillion economy open to the world that has recently surpassed Spain as the 12th largest. It is now the largest Spanish-speaking market and US enterprises are in a unique position to profit —unless xenophobic ideas prevent them from doing so, but that wouldn’t be too rational.

Since the enactment of NAFTA two decades ago, US-Mexico commerce has more than quadrupled, to US$400 billion per year. Bilateral foreign direct investment adds up to US$100 billion, almost one-fifth are investments of Mexican companies in the United States: I am talking about Mexican global corporations such as Grupo Bimbo, Cemex, América Móvil, Grupo Maseca, and Grupo Salinas, among many others, companies that have something  unique to offer to millions of consumers in the United States.

More than six million jobs in the US depend directly on our bilateral relationship, many more in Mexico. From trade and services to logistics and finance, there are very few industries untouched by our partnership. For instance, Querétaro is a North American Hub for DHL; Guanajuato is becoming more and more important for the automotive industry; and Jalisco is equally relevant for the electronics sector in the US.  In the same way, Texas and California are fundamental for the operations of dozens of Mexican companies.

Many more states and cities, at both sides of the border, are gradually being incorporated to this growing partnership that creates thousands of new job openings every year—here, being bilingual makes you much more valuable, as millions of Hispanics know. You have to be really shortsighted to not be thrilled by the endless possibilities created by our bilateral relationship.

Of course, Mexico’s economy has been deeply transformed by this partnership but the US economy has changed too. For instance, twenty years ago, 80% of Mexico’s exports were oil related, today, 90% of our exports are not related to oil: most of them are manufactured goods. In fact, the oil related trade balance is now negative for Mexico, at US$1.8 billion in the first quarter of this year.

Dozens of US companies have expressed deep interest in participating in the newly opened Mexican energy sector and billions in new investments will help create an energy powerhouse that will make North America self-sufficient in oil and gas. Now we need to work harder in developing alternative energy resources, because here, quite literally, the sky is the limit.

According to the Woodrow Wilson Center, Mexico is the first export destination for five US states: California, New Mexico, Texas, New Hampshire and Arizona, and the second destination for goods exported by seventeen others. Our ten border states have a combined economy surpassing US$3.5 trillion, and it is growing faster than the rest of their respective countries, as Mexico and the US become more and more integrated. A recent delegation headed by the Governor of Arizona traveled to Mexico City with the explicit intent to mend ties after certain xenophobic laws significantly hurt that state’s economic activity.

Today, Mexico has become the world’s seventh largest automobile producer and our automotive industry is now an integral part of that in North America: one by one, many more industries are being strengthened by this highly complementary partnership.

For a few years now, Mexican manufacturing exports have been larger than those of all other Latin American countries…combined. Mexico has signed twelve trade agreements that cover 42 economies, more than any other country in the world. This fact represents a splendid opportunity for thousands of US companies to expand their global presence, as hundreds of them are already doing.

To fully grasp this issue, we need to understand that our bilateral relationship is not a zero-sum game: it is a win-win situation that deserves to be taken to its full potential.

Mexico is much more than drugs, crime and illegal immigration. So, let’s say it clear: a higher wall at the border serves no-one—but the building contractors. What we really need is to seriously consider how we are going to take this relationship one quantitative leap forward, for the benefit of more than four hundred million people.

Ricardo B. Salinas is the Chairman and Founder of Grupo Salinas.