A broader agenda

The interests of the United States and Mexico extend beyond security and immigration

Relations between the United States and Mexico are complex due to the wide range of issues they share that bring them together and set them apart. Thus, “multi-thematic” is a fine choice of words to describe the relationship between the administrations of presidents Barack Obama and Enrique Peña Nieto.

The U.S. leader’s visit to Mexico served to jumpstart bilateral relations, adapting them to the change in the neighboring country. Particularly, regarding the change in the Mexican government’s strategy for how to collaborate with its neighbor to the north to fight drug trafficking in Mexico.

Former President Felipe Calderón’s more liberal policy of contacts at multiple levels between Mexican and U.S. authorities has been left behind and replaced with a single channel. This move toward centralization has been replicated in various sectors of the new government, reflecting the PRI’s traditional modus operandi.

At the same time, comments by both leaders showed a healthy caution to avoid making the mistakes of previous presidents. One example was the tact employed by Peña Nieto in his remarks on immigration reform.

That respect to avoid encroaching on the work of Congress in Washington also gives Peña Nieto the chance to expand the bilateral agenda to really stress investment, trade, and educational exchanges and go beyond his PAN predecessor’s priorities of security and immigration.

It is now up to the White House to respect and understand the change that has occurred at Los Pinos. Security is undoubtedly a central issue in their relationship. The United States provides the drug users and the guns, while Mexico supplies the drugs and the victims of violence. Nonetheless, while security dominates the headlines, it need not dominate the bilateral agenda, especially from the U.S viewpoint.

It is natural for the political change in Mexico to have an impact on bilateral relations. They are off to a promising start, but concrete actions moving forward will determine the success of the stated multi-thematic approach.