There are those would say that present-day Mexico is an example of the famous phrase of Giuseppe di Lampedusa (about Sicily of the Risorgimento) that everything has changed so that everything may go on just as it was. And others say that Mexico has not changed at all. I disagree with both views. I have been a witness — from various perspectives — to my country’s political life for almost fifty years and I am quite sure of one thing: Mexico has really changed.
Last year will go down as an extraordinary, historic year in Mexico. A number of structural and political reforms that had been pending for 15 years were approved by the country’s Congress addressing education, labor markets, telecoms competition, financial regulation, fiscal affairs, elections rules and energy. The government of Enrique Peña Nieto remained the darling of international investors throughout the year, and received record levels of foreign direct investment in the first year of its mandate, by following through on his promised reform agenda and delivering the legislation needed to prepare Mexico for a more competitive global economic environment. His ruling PRI (Revolutionary Institutional Party) showed coherence and unity throughout the year, and the other major parties agreed to work closely with the PRI to secure legislative progress.
With the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Mexico is better today than it was 20 years ago, Luis de la Calle asserts.
A key actor in the agreement’s negotiations when he served as Minister of Trade Issues for the Mexican Embassy in Washington, DC, he observes that the next step is for the country to convert into a North American export platform.
With the North American Free Trade Agreement completing 20 years, it is a good moment to reflect and look toward the region’s future and its place in the world economy.
It is important to recognize that NAFTA was a first-generation free trade agreement, originally conceived in the 1980s, and for that reason it was very limited.
Despite the drug war and immigration morass, America’s southern neighbor is on the cusp of its greatest economic transformation in a century, thanks to the courageous oil reforms of its new president, Enrique Peña Nieto.
It has been another year of horrible headlines for Mexico. Three hurricanes wracked the country, causing historic floods that killed hundreds and caused billions in damage. The drug war continues, with more than 60,000 killed since 2006 as cartels vie for their cut of $10 billion a year in narco-cash. More than 200,000 illegal immigrants from Mexico are still deported by the U.S. each year. And after rebounding from the 2008 crash, and even luring away manufacturing jobs from China, Mexico has seen its annual economic growth rate sag to less than 1.5%.
The agreement on a political reform bill by the three main political parties in Mexico will likely prove crucial for the approval of the planned energy and fiscal reforms, said Nomura Securities in a research note.
Nomura sees political reform as a “bridge” to energy and fiscal reforms and if the bridge collapses, “fiscal or energy reforms would not be implemented.”
One of the chief obstacles for political reform has been that each party has its own version of measures and changes that such a reform should include, the investment bank said. It also noted that divisions within some parties have also translated into several proposals for a political reform.
If U.S. officials wanted to learn how government can operate well in modern times, all they need to do is look south. Mexico’s executive and legislative leaders are demonstrating how bipartisan cooperation can make great progress for the benefit of their people.
After enacting major reforms in telecom, broadcasting, education, labor relations and the governance of public institutions earlier this year, the Mexican Congress is now moving to reform its fiscal and energy laws. The combination is a model of progressive legislating that, in the end, will undoubtedly improve Mexico’s economic competitiveness.