Secretary Ross and the Commerce Department Wrongly Conclude NAFTA Rules are Bad for the U.S.

10/4/2017 Forbes

Flag_of_the_North_American_Free_Trade_Agreement_(standard_version).svgBy Luis de la Calle

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross published an important op-ed (These NAFTA rules are killing our jobs) in the Washington Post this past Friday, September 22nd.  In it, he claims to offer a serious analysis to show that the trade deficit with Mexico and Canada and lower U.S. value-added in Mexican and Canadian U.S. imports are proof the United States is losing under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  Secretary Ross aims to end the “loose talk” about industrial integration for automobile production in the region.

The problem with the article and the U.S. Department of Commerce paper it is based on is that they cherry pick statistics out of the March 2017, Trade in Value-Added (TiVA) database by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in an attempt to confirm the Trump’s administration bias that trade deficits are bad and lead to job losses.  This wrongheaded approach (the trade deficit with Mexico does not harm the United States) does a growing disservice to the comprehension of the importance of international trade for the economy and further politicizes the issue. More worryingly, it shows civil service officers can be influenced so that their analysis comports with White House views on trade.

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The Expert Take | Where is Mexico’s Fight Against Corruption Now?

expert I (2)By Viridiana Rios

The deadliest earthquake since 1985 hit Mexico last week, the second significant earthquake in 2017. With at least 225 victims, the parallels between last week’s earthquake and 1985’s are spine chilling. Both happened on the same day of the year, September 19th, and both have awoken a powerful civilian mobilization to rescue victims from collapsed buildings.

Back in 1985, corruption and violations of the city’s building codes were attributed much of the destruction. Today, an excellent piece by Animal Político has proven that the state of Oaxaca was hit the hardest during the first earthquake of 2017 due to corruption and poor use of tax-payer resources. The entire seismic warning system of Oaxaca had not been operating since January due to the state government’s debts to the service provider. The alerts were either stored in warehouses, or were sold online by private parties. In Mexico City, out of the 7,356 seismic alerts that the city’s government had bought, about 46 percent were never installed and had simply disappeared.

In the face of these events, corruption becomes a humanitarian crisis, rather than just a judicial issue.

Mexico’s organized civil society knows this and, as a result, has recently embraced a vibrant and ambitious agenda to improve the corrupt system. Lawyers have joined efforts with activists to propose to Congress the necessary laws and institutions to effectively prosecute corruption acts and to watch over the legislation’s implementation.

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A Message from the Director: Announcing our 2018 Mexico Elections Guide

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Every six years, Mexicans go to the polls to pick a new President and a new Congress. The country’s democratic transition, though still far from complete, has made impressive strides since the 1980s, and competitive elections and political alternation have become institutions firmly embedded in political culture. Elections give voters the opportunity to choose the individuals and the party that will rule Mexico for the next six years, and since 1997, those voters have shown a deep dissatisfaction with incumbents. During this period, the country experienced a shift from PRI-ista hegemony to divided government in 1997, to successive PAN presidential victories, the second of which was heavily disputed and then, in 2012, a return to PRI control of the presidency and the Congress. Mexicans exercise their democratic rights on a regular basis, and they do so effectively. Though the democratic system is far from perfect, elections matter in Mexico. They are relatively free and fair, determine outcomes, and allow the citizenry to express both their discontent and their preferences.

It thus gives us great pleasure to introduce The Mexico Institute’s 2018 Elections Guide. Since 2012, the Mexico Institute has provided comprehensive coverage of Mexico’s presidential and congressional elections, by curating news articles and opinion polls online, and by soliciting and publishing unique content from our extensive network of analysts and experts. This archived material will now be joined by our coverage of the July 2018 election: we will provide information and analysis of the campaigns and the personalities that will compete to rule Mexico for the next six years. Over the next 11 months, we will track the parties and candidates, as well as the most important issues, domestic and foreign, which will determine voter preferences.

In addition to the content posted on this blog, the Mexico Institute hopes to host the leading candidates as they lay out their ideas and policies. These events will be presented live online as webcasts and will be archived for future reference. We intend to live up to our commitment to non-partisanship and public education by ensuring that all candidates and parties engage in robust dialogue with our audience. To further this, we will be asking you to inform our work with your questions and concerns.

Thank you for following this blog and for supporting our work. The vote that will take place on Sunday, July 1, 2018 presents Mexico with divergent visions of the future, and our staff and experts will provide detailed and impartial information and analysis to help steer you through what promises to be a complex and keenly contested election.

We hope you enjoy the new resource.

Sincerely,

Duncan Wood

Visit the Mexico Institute’s 2018 Elections Guide

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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One-Month Anniversary of the Murder of Mexican Journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas

6/15/2017 The Expert Take, Mexico Institute

By Eric L. Olson and Gina Hinojosa

expert I (2)One month ago today, world-renowned Mexican journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas was ambushed by unidentified assailants while leaving his office in his hometown of Culiacán, Sinaloa. According to press reports, he was pulled from his car, shot a dozen times in the middle of the day on a crowded street, and left lifeless in the middle of the road. His signature Panama hat lay bloodied beside him.

Reporting from the base of the infamous Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s ruthlessly violent Sinaloa Cartel, Valdez was widely recognized as one of Mexico’s most fearless journalists. One of the country’s leading chroniclers of organized crime, corruption, and the intricate links between the two, he was awarded the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)’s International Press Freedom Award in 2011. “In a country where widespread self-censorship is the consequence of violence by drug syndicates and criminal gangs, Valdez still covers sensitive issues,” wrote CPJ in its announcement of the award.

Days after his death, fellow reporter Javier Garza Ramos wrote in El País that Valdez’s murder “shook the Mexican press unlike any other act of violence against journalists in the past decade.” Violent attacks against media workers are not uncommon in in Mexico (more than 100 journalists have been killed since 2000), but such high profile, internationally recognized reporters are rarely targeted. Valdez’s assassination sends a chilling message to the Mexican press: no journalist in Mexico is untouchable.

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La Impunidad Sigue: Violence against Journalists in Mexico

5/17/2017 The Expert Take, Mexico Institute

expert I (2)By Eric L. Olson and Gina Hinojosa

In yet another disturbing attack against freedom of expression in Mexico, one of the country’s most celebrated reporters, Javier Valdez Cárdenas, was shot dead this week in his hometown of Culiacán, Sinaloa. The fifth journalist to be murdered in Mexico this year, Valdez was pulled from his car and shot multiple times by an unidentified assailant around noon on May 15, according to national newspaper La Jornada, leaving the country to grieve the loss, again, of courageous journalist and rights defenders.

A talented and undeniably passionate reporter, Valdez won numerous international awards for his work. In 2011, the publication he co-founded, RioDoce, earned the prestigious Maria Moors Cabot Prize from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. In the same year, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) awarded Valdez the 2011 International Press Freedom Award for his fearless coverage of drug trafficking, organized crime, and corruption. “In a country where widespread self-censorship is the consequence of violence by drug syndicates and criminal gangs, Valdez still covers sensitive issues,” wrote CPJ in its announcement of the award.

The words Valdez delivered upon receiving the CPJ award in New York are heart-wrenching. They underscore the horrors suffered by Mexicans living in areas ravaged by the country’s ongoing struggle against organized crime and the persistent challenges faced by journalists brave enough to report from the front lines of this struggle:

“Where I work, Culiacán, in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico, it is dangerous to be alive, and to do journalism is to walk on an invisible line drawn by the bad guys–who are in drug trafficking and in the government–in a field strewn with explosives. This is what most of the country is living through. One must protect oneself from everything and everyone, and there do not seem to be options or salvation, and often there is no one to turn to.”

While well aware of the risks, Valdez dedicated his life to addressing these pressing issues. In 2003, he co-founded the Sinaloa-based crime and corruption-focused publication RioDoce. At the time of the publication’s founding, the state government was believed to control most of Sinaloa’s media, and Valdez saw the need to provide more honest coverage of organized crime’s toll on Mexican society and governance.

In 2011, Valdez spoke at the Wilson Center about his work at a Mexico Institute event in the midst of Mexico’s rising homicide rates, discussing the risks faced by journalists reporting on organized crime. Widely considered the height of Mexico’s drug war, 2011 was the country’s most violent year on record, with nearly 23,000 homicides documented nationwide by the Mexican National Security System (SNSP). When asked by the Mexico Institute’s Eric L. Olson about why he continued reporting on such dangerous topics in such a hostile context, Valdez said, “The other option is to stay quiet and to turn a blind eye…I believe everyone must assume the responsibility given to them.”

The broader picture

Through his activism and dedicated reporting, Valdez called attention to Mexico’s incessant struggle to put an end to violence against journalists. Press freedom watchdog Reporters without Borders (RSF) consistently ranks Mexico the most dangerous country in the Western Hemisphere for the media, and in its 2017 World Press Freedom Index, RSF declared Mexico the third deadliest country in the world for the press, behind only Syria and Afghanistan. According to international human rights organization Article 19, 105 journalists have been murdered in Mexico since 2000, and in 2016 alone, the organization documented 426 total acts of aggression against the press, including 11 homicides. The most common types of attacks recorded by Article 19 last year included physical assault, intimidation, and threats.

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The View from Mexico | Border Adjustment Tax: Economic Impact & WTO Consistency

1/18/2017 Forbes.com, Mexico Institute Blog

By Luis de la Calle

Donald Trump has been elected U.S. President as disrupter in chief; somebody that can get things done and change the status quo.

One of the centerpieces of his program appears to be a complete revamp of the U.S. tax system. “I understand the tax laws better than almost anyone. And that is why I am one that can truly fix them,” he said several times in debates and rallies. The idea is to end up with a system that favors investment on infrastructure and capital goods.

His background as a developer and his penchant for not paying taxes have led him to believe that the best way to promote growth and generate government revenue is taxing consumption rather than investment. Furthermore, his infrastructure ambitions need significant private investment funds that might only come with a favorable regime. The idea is to prompt firms and banks holding more than a trillion dollars in cash to put it to work.

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