Clare Ribando Seelke Specialist in Latin American Affairs
United States and Mexico have a close and complex bilateral relationship as
neighbors and partners under the North American Free Trade Agreement
(NAFTA). Although security issues have recently dominated the U.S.
relationship with Mexico, analysts predict that bilateral relations may
shift toward economic matters now that President Enrique Peña Nieto has taken office.
Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) defeated leftist
Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) candidate Andrés Manuel López
Obrador and Josefina Vázquez Mota of the conservative National Action
Party (PAN) in Mexico’s July 1, 2012 presidential election. As a result,
the PRI, which controlled Mexico from 1929 to 2000, retook the presidency on
December 1, 2012. Some analysts have raised concerns regarding the PRI’s return
to power, but President Peña Nieto has pledged to govern democratically
and to forge cross-party alliances.
The outgoing PAN government of Felipe Calderón pursued an aggressive anticrime
strategy and increased security cooperation with the United States. Those
efforts helped Mexico arrest or kill record numbers of drug kingpins, but
60,000 people may have died as a result of organized crimerelated violence
during the Calderón Administration. Mexico’s ongoing security challenges overshadowed
some of the Calderón government’s achievements, including its successful economic
stewardship during and after the global financial crisis.
In recent years, U.S. policy toward Mexico has been framed by security
cooperation under the Mérida Initiative. Congress has provided more than
$1.9 billion in Mérida aid since FY2008 to support Mexico’s efforts
against drug trafficking and organized crime. Whereas U.S. assistance initially
focused on training and equipping Mexican counterdrug forces, it now
prioritizes strengthening the rule of law. Along the border, U.S.
policymakers have sought to balance security and commercial concerns. The
U.S. and Mexican governments resolved a long-standing trade dispute in
2011 involving NAFTA trucking provisions and have sought to improve competitiveness
through regulatory cooperation. Bilateral trade surpassed $460 billion in 2011.The
February 2012 signing of a Trans-Boundary Hydrocarbons Agreement for managing
oil resources in the Gulf of Mexico could create new opportunities for
The 112th Congress maintained an active
interest in Mexico. The Obama Administration asked for $269.5 million in
assistance for Mexico in its FY2013 budget request. The Senate and House Appropriations
Committees’ versions of the FY2013 foreign aid measure, S. 3241 and H.R. 5857, each
recommend increases in aid to Mexico, with human rights conditions similar to
P.L. 112-74. Congress held oversight hearings, issued reports, and
introduced legislation on how to bolster the Mérida Initiative and on
related U.S. domestic efforts to combat gun trafficking, money laundering,
and drug demand.
Violence in northern Mexico has kept border security on the agenda, with P.L.
112-93 increasing penalties for aviation smuggling, P.L. 112-127
tightening sentencing guidelines for building border tunnels, and P.L.
112-205 providing statutory authority for the bilateral Border Enforcement
Security Task Force (BEST) program.
Mexico’s recent accession to negotiations for a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
trade agreement generated congressional interest. Congressional
consideration of the Trans-boundary Hydrocarbons Agreement did not occur.
This report reflects legislative developments during the 112th Congress. It will not be updated. Also see: CRS Report
R42917, Mexico’s New Administration: Priorities and Key Issues in U.S.- Mexican
Relations, by Clare Ribando Seelke; CRS Report R41349, U.S.-Mexican
Security Cooperation: The Mérida Initiative and Beyond, by Clare
Ribando Seelke and Kristin M. Finklea; and CRS Report RL32934, U.S.-Mexico
Economic Relations: Trends, Issues, and Implications, by M. Angeles
Date of Report: January 29, 2013
Number of Pages: 42 Order Number: RL32724 Price: $29.95
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