Two Nations Indivisible: Mexico, the United States, and the Road Ahead
Shannon K. O'Neil, Council on Foreign Relations
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New York, NY—On June 17, 2013, Shannon O’Neil, Senior Fellow for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, addressed WFPG at an Author Series event on her book, Two Nations Indivisible: Mexico, The United States, and the Road Ahead. O’Neil discussed the changes she has observed in Mexico over the last twenty years, including the opening of the economy and growth of the middle class. She emphasized the need for Americans to better understand US–Mexico relations as well as Mexico’s evolving position globally, including new relationships with China and Canada. O’Neil also spoke about Mexico’s major challenges including corruption, strengthening the rule of law, improving security, and diminishing violence. The event was moderated by WFPG President Patricia Ellis and held at the Institute of International Education.

In the last twenty years, Mexico’s economy has undergone a transformation from a closed to an open economy. The numerous factories lining Mexican roads are a testament to the economic potential of the country and a physical reminder that trade between the US and Mexico has quadrupled to half a trillion dollars worth of goods per year since NAFTA was signed. Today, the middle class makes up almost half of the population of Mexico. According to O’Neil, 6 million American jobs rely on Mexican consumers and Mexico’s economic future is closely tied to that of the United States: “If Mexico does well, so too will the United States. If Mexico does poorly, the repercussions will reach far beyond the US-Mexico border.”

In terms of foreign policy, Mexico’s priority is economics. While foreign trade has increased, O’Neil believes that Mexico needs to elevate its position on the global stage. She argued that Mexico has “punched below its weight globally” and therefore is not as involved in multilateral issues as it could be. She discussed the Chinese president’s recent visit to Mexico and suggested that China and Mexico are working on being both partners and competitors. She also commented on the new evolving relationship between Mexico and Canada, which would be separate from the United States.

O’Neil discussed two key problems facing Mexico: deteriorating security and corruption. President Peña Nieto promised a new approach during his campaign but so far has continued former President Calderón’s security initiatives. O’Neil believes that long term institution building is needed to improve security and the justice system with its weak rule of law. According to O’Neil, to lower violence, killings, and kidnappings “you need to clean up your cops, you need to clean up your courts.” She also thinks there is a role for both local and federal security forces. Lastly, she is concerned that rampant corruption, such as bribery, extortion, and blackmail, produces no legal disincentive for criminals.


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Shannon O'Neil and WFPG President Patricia Ellis

  Andrea Pacheo of IIE welcomes guests to the program

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Shannon O'Neil and Patricia Ellis during the program

  WFPG member, Susan Crowley, asks a question