Protecting Mexico’s Energy Reforms

8/14/2017 RealClear World

By Duncan Wood

When President Salinas Gortari signed the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement for Mexico in 1992, he provided certainty and stability for investors hoping to benefit from Mexico’s emerging manufacturing base. The trade deal locked in the benefits of domestic economic reforms and liberalization introduced in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The steady flow of foreign investment that followed turned Mexico into a manufacturing powerhouse.

When negotiators from Mexico, Canada, and the United States start talks on Wednesday to renegotiate aspects of the 23-year-old agreement, they too hope to lock in recently won gains in Mexico that are of enormous interest to all parties. One priority must be to defend hard-won reforms in Mexico’s energy sector — reforms meant to change a sector that was closed and monopolistic for 75 years. Since U.S. President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January, a broad-based movement has emerged that aims to defend two decades of free trade in the region and to insist on the urgency of “doing no harm” during renegotiation. NAFTA’s defenders have managed to influence a change in language: Where commentators once spoke of renegotiating a pact Trump characterized as the worst trade deal signed by the United States, the negotiations are now widely framed as an opportunity to modernize a venerable trade deal so that it more accurately reflects the needs and priorities of the 21st century economy.

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Learning From The Experience Of NAFTA Labor And Environmental Governance

8/11/2017 Forbes

forbesAs negotiators from the United States, Mexico, and Canada prepare to begin talks on a renegotiated NAFTA agreement, this is an opportune moment to think about how to strengthen trilateral oversight in the important areas of labor and environmental policy. The Trump Administration published its negotiating objectives in July, and they included the aim to strengthen both labor and environmental oversight within NAFTA. Clear lessons can be drawn from the NAFTA experience about what worked and what did not, and how civil society participated and evolved.

NAFTA included two side agreements, one on the environment and one on labor. The purpose was to pressure all three member states to uphold their own laws in these areas. Mexico’s inclusion in NAFTA was the original rationale, but the requirements applied to all three countries. Non-compliance was not to be tolerated.

What happened next is very important. The side agreements created routes for civil society to complain about non-compliance, and therefore contribute to governance. Although many see the side agreements as worthless, they did have a significant impact on Mexican civil society, and to an extent, governance in Mexico too. The way this happened is less obvious and less understood than trade or investment-led change, but it is worth our attention. In fact, the impact of the labor and environmental side agreements differed, because their institutions and procedures differed – and therein lies an important lesson. Let’s look at both in turn.

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NEW PUBLICATION: “Following the Money Trail” to Combat Terrorism, Crime, and Corruption in the Americas

Over the past decade, there has been a greater appreciation of how “following the money trail” directly contributes to the fight against terrorism, crime, and corruption around the world. Money serves as the oxygen for any activity, licit or illicit; it is the critical enabler for any organization, from international crime syndicates like the Mexican cartels to terrorist groups like the FARC, ISIS, and Hezbollah. Financial intelligence has helped governments to better understand, detect, disrupt, and counter criminal and terrorist networks and expose political corruption.

Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the United States and its Latin American partners have strengthened their ability to combat money laundering and terrorist financing and consciously incorporated the financial instrument of national power into their national security strategies. “Following the money trail,” counterterrorism, and Drug Kingpin sanctions and asset forfeiture have become particularly important to attack narco-insurgencies, dismantle transnational criminal organizations (TCOs), and address political corruption scandals that have reached the highest levels of governments across Latin America.

This report focuses on the threats from money laundering and terrorist financing, distinguishing the two, and explains government efforts to counter illicit financing. It describes the ways illicit actors raise, move, store, and use money to pursue their dangerous agendas. Specific cases examining the FARC in Colombia, the 2015 fall of the Guatemalan government, and Brazil’s “Operation Car Wash” corruption scandal illustrate how governments use financial intelligence to pursue terrorists, criminals, corrupt politicians, and their financiers in Latin America. Finally, the report emphasizes the need to design, implement, and constantly update national and international strategies to combat the financing of emerging threats like terrorism, crime, and corruption and to safeguard our financial systems.

Download the report

Commentary | Why renegotiating NAFTA will expand economic growth

7/27/2017 The San Diego Union-Tribune

By Earl Anthony Wayne, Global Fellow & Advisory Board Member, Mexico Institute

NAFTA 2.0 is a big opportunity for San Diego and the entire U.S.-Mexico border region. With a good “modernization” of the 1993 treaty, the U.S.-Mexico border can expand economic growth and continue to be one of the most dynamic regions in North America. Elected officials and business groups from the border region should organize to weigh in regularly with the government negotiating teams and elected representatives in the months ahead to assure a good outcome.

Voices from the border cities and states must be well organized to have their voices heard in Washington and in Mexico City. Happily, San Diego and Tijuana are hosting mayors from throughout the region for the Border Mayors Association Binational Summit this week. This is an important opportunity for mayors to pursue a shared agenda.

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What’s Behind Rising Violence in Colima?: A Brief Look at 2016’s Most Violence Mexican State

expert I (2)The Expert Take, By Eric L. Olson & Gina Hinojosa

May 2017 was Mexico’s deadliest month on record.[1] 2,200 people were reportedly murdered nationwide that month, bringing the country’s death toll to nearly 10,000 since the beginning of the year. If the violence continues at this pace, 2017 will become Mexico’s most murderous year since the federal government began releasing homicide data in 1997, surpassing its previous annual homicide record of 23,000 murders in 2011.

Mexico has struggled with elevated violence for over a decade since the government launched an aggressive campaign against the country’s drug cartels in 2007. Deploying federal troops to communities particularly affected by drug violence has done little to stem criminal organizations’ drug trafficking operations[2] or curb violent crime. In fact, by 2011, Mexico’s murder rate had more than doubled, and while homicides declined moderately between 2012 and 2014, violence picked up once more in 2015 and has continued to rise since (see Figure 1).

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[VIDEO] Dying for a Story: How Impunity & Violence against Mexican Journalists are Weakening the Country

Watch the video from yesterday’s event

Mexico has faced significant threats and violence from organized crime over the last decade. The human toll and tragedy of this violence is directly impacting journalists as well, leading to self-censorship, under-reporting of organized crime, and the corruption and state complicity that comes with it. Journalists have been killed, injured, and threatened as they seek to investigate and report on what is happening, and dozens of media outlets have been forced to close in the last few years. According to Article 19, eleven journalists were killed in 2016 and six so far in 2017 including Javier Valdéz, an internationally recognized journalist from Sinaloa’s RíoDoce, on May 15th.

In 2012, the United States supported the legislative framework that established Mexico’s National Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists. Through USAID, the United States has continued to support the Protection Mechanism and other programs to benefit journalists and defenders in Mexico. Nevertheless, the recent cases demonstrate that these mechanisms have not yet been effective. The Mexican government has expressed concern about the problem and promised justice, but investigations and prosecutions of those responsible have been very few. In the process, freedom of information, freedom of the press, the rule of law, and democratic governance have been weakened.

The Wilson Center and WOLA convened a discussion with experts and courageous Mexican journalists to hear about their work and the difficulties and risks they and their colleagues face. They were joined by Ana Cristina Ruelas, the Director of Article 19’s office for Mexico and Central America, Azam Ahmed, the New York Times’ Bureau Chief for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, and Jennifer Clement, the President of PEN International, who presented an overview of attacks and aggressions against journalists in Mexico and the Mexican government’s response to this concerning situation.

Trump just might be giving us the opportunity to make NAFTA even stronger

6/7/2017 Dallas News

By Alan Bersin, Mexico Institute Global Fellow and Former Commissioner, U.S. CBP

Donald Trump’s campaign, when it turned to issues, focused on migration, borders and trade. Characteristic of populist crusades, it zeroed in on foreigners to explain this country’s purported loss of greatness. Mexico and Mexicans were targeted with particular venom: NAFTA was the worst trade deal ever, Mexican migrants were rapists and thugs, and only a big wall could ensure our border security. In office, the administration’s initial policy pronouncements tracked the rhetoric: NAFTA will be scrapped, undocumented migrants will be deported and the wall will be built.

Two months into governing, the new administration’s messages remain mixed, but talk has turned from abject negation of the North American Free Trade Agreement to likely renegotiation with a decidedly positive focus on competitiveness. The realities of the complex, symbiotic U.S.-Mexican relationship have begun to assert themselves: We don’t trade with one another so much as make things together, and both countries protect themselves through shared perimeter security systems that won’t work absent trust and confidence between officials on both sides of the border.

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