Specialist in International Trade and Finance
The state of Mexico’s economy is important for U.S. policymakers for many reasons, most significantly because a prosperous and democratic neighboring country is in the best interest of the United States. The two countries have strong economic, political, and social ties, which have direct policy implications related to bilateral trade, economic competitiveness, migration, and border security. In May 2010, President Barack Obama hosted Mexican President Felipe Calderón at a meeting in the White House in which the two leaders discussed key issues affecting the two countries. They agreed to continue and reinforce cooperation on creating jobs, promoting economic recovery and expansion, and encouraging inclusive prosperity across all levels of society in both countries. The 111th Congress is likely to maintain an active interest in Mexico on issues related to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and other trade issues, economic conditions in Mexico, migration, border security issues, and counter-narcotics.
The global financial crisis that began in 2008 and the U.S. economic downturn had strong adverse effects on the Mexican economy, largely due to its economic ties and dependence on the U.S. market. Mexico’s gross domestic product (GDP) contracted by 6.6% in 2009, the sharpest decline of any Latin American economy. Mexico’s reliance on the United States as an export market and the relative importance of exports to its overall economic performance make it highly susceptible to fluctuations in the U.S. economy. Most other Latin American countries are not as dependent on the United States as an export market. Economic reforms over the past 20 years and the government’s responses to the effects of the global financial crisis have helped Mexico weather the economic downturn and improve conditions in 2010. However, sustained economic recovery will likely depend on the U.S. economic recovery and the ability to sustain this growth.
In addition to the adverse effects from the global financial crisis and the U.S. economic contraction, Mexico’s economy is experiencing numerous other challenges. The escalation of violence since the government’s crackdown on organized crime and drug trafficking has led to investor uncertainty in some regions of the country and, subsequently, a sharp decline in foreign direct investment flows. The impact has been the most severe on the manufacturing industry, which is mostly located along the U.S.-Mexico border and has experienced significant job losses. Increasing unemployment throughout the country has led to a growing trend towards informality and self-employment. This may present a long-term problem for the government because growth in the informal sector can lead to increased poverty levels, diminished productivity, and lower prospects for sustained economic growth. Another issue is the 16% drop in remittances to Mexico in 2009, which has mostly affected the poor. Remittance inflows, which are largely from the United States, are Mexico’s second-highest source of foreign currency after oil.
Numerous analysts have noted that Mexico’s potential to promote economic growth, increase productivity, and lower the poverty rate is very limited without implementing substantial structural reforms. President Calderón has proposed a number of reforms to address these challenges, including proposals to eliminate extreme poverty, overhaul public finances, privatize parts of the state oil company, adopt labor reforms, reform the telecommunications sector, and encourage political reforms. Most of these proposals, however, have deeply rooted political implications and have been strongly opposed by the major political parties in the Mexican Congress. There are some signs that the population may be pushing for change, but the prospects for passing any of the proposals will likely depend on the outcome of the 2012 presidential elections. .
Date of Report: September 16, 2010
Number of Pages: 24
Order Number: R41402
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