Drug-Smuggling Tunnel, Found in San Diego, Is Longest Yet

4/21/2016 The New York Times

For all the talk about a wall between the United States and Mexico, the problem with border security continues to be as much below ground as above. On Wednesday, officials in San Diego announced the discovery of another cross-border tunnel built by drug smugglers — the longest one found yet, at about half a mile.

The tunnel had rails, lighting, ventilation and even a large elevator leading to a closet in a modest house in Tijuana, United States Attorney Laura E. Duffy said. On the San Diego side, where the tunnel emerged in an industrial park in the Otay Mesa neighborhood, the authorities arrested and charged six people last week and confiscated more than a ton of cocaine and seven tons of marijuana that they said had been smuggled through the passage — the largest drug seizure associated with a tunnel….

[…]“A package of cocaine or heroin is much easier to move and hide than a person, and the profit it represents is far greater,” said Christopher Wilson, deputy director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a policy research group. “Working with terrorists would bring a huge amount heat on the cartels, and that’s bad for business.”

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From Obstacle to Asset: Re-envisioning the U.S.-Mexico Border

4/19/2016 Forbes

By Christopher Wilson and Erik Lee

forbesThe U.S.-Mexico border has yet again made an appearance in the political theater of the U.S. presidential campaign, starring in its traditional supporting role as a stock villain character. Though the political dialogue sounds like a re-reading of a script written in the 1990s or early 2000s when Mexican migration peaked, the discussion on the ground in most—but not all—U.S.-Mexico border communities long ago moved on to regional economic development. It is a largely positive discussion that could not be more different than what we are hearing at the national level.

Throughout the border region, local leaders from the public and private sectors are asking themselves how they can form cross-border partnerships to leverage assets in their sister cities and strengthen their local economies. They are looking to create a border that connects the United States to Mexico at least as much as it divides our two nations. A close look at the economic data, however, reveals divergent local economies and major border barriers. In our recent report, Competitive Border Communities: Mapping and Developing U.S.-Mexico Transborder Industries, we found that while advanced manufacturing industries such as  aerospace, automotive and medical devices often predominate in Mexican border communities, RV parks, retail and freight transportation are often the most concentrated (and often low-paying) industries in U.S. border communities.

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Depressed Energy Prices Cause Decline in U.S.-Mexico Trade


2/23/2016 Forbes.com

By Christopher Wilson, Deputy Director, Mexico Institute

forbesFrom 2009-2014, U.S.-Mexico trade skyrocketed. Bilateral trade grew 75%, faster than U.S. trade with any other major trading partner, including China (61%), and importantly, both imports and exports were growing rapidly. In 2015, trade growth came to a screeching halt, though strong fundamentals suggest this may be more of a temporary blip than a new trajectory.

The Census Bureau recently released U.S. merchandise trade statistics for 2015, and though Mexico is still the United States’ second largest export market and third largest overall trading partner, for the first time since the economic crisis of 2008-2009, U.S.-Mexico trade declined from the previous year’s level. Interestingly, as shown in the graph below, U.S.-Canada trade dropped sharply in 2015, allowing China to become the United States’ top trading partner. In 2014, the two countries traded $534.3 billion, but in 2015 that number fell to $531.1, a decline of some $3.2 billion dollars. U.S. imports from Mexico basically held steady, growing from $294.1 to $294.7 billion, although this apparent stagnation masks multiple underlying trends. Exports, on the other hand, dropped some $3.8 billion. This brief analysis examines recent trends in bilateral trade and their implications for the future of U.S. and Mexican economies.

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Andres Oppenheimer: Obama’s TPP may reshape world trade

2/6/2016 Miami Herald

The formal signing last week of the world’s biggest trade and investment agreement — the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP — went almost unnoticed in most countries, but it could soon start to change the world’s economic and political maps.

One of the reasons why the 12-country trade agreement’s Thursday signing ceremony in New Zealand drew little world attention was that neither President Barack Obama nor other leaders of participating countries attended the event, and chose to send their trade ministers instead…

…“The TPP does not aim to create divisions within Latin America, although it will accentuate the contrast between TPP member countries’ pursuit of export-oriented growth strategies, and the more closed economic models of countries such as Brazil and Venezuela,” says Christopher Wilson, of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars’ Mexico Institute.

The “bridge to nowhere” now connects the United States and Mexico

2/4/2016 Mexico Institute via Forbes.com

By Christopher Wilson and E. Anthony Wayne

On February 4, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and U.S. Secretaries of Homeland Security and Commerce are scheduled to inaugurate the new border crossing just south of El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua. Once called the “bridge to nowhere” because the U.S. half was completed before the Mexican portion was built, the international bridge and port of entry facilities at Tornillo-Guadalupe will now help manage the massive legal flows of goods and people across our border.  Over $1 million dollars of trade per minute crosses our common border and an estimated 950,000 people legally cross the border each day to study, visit family members, do business and go shopping.

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Mexico Paves the Way for Marijuana Legalization

11/5/2015 Huffington Post Live

CW huffpostMexico’s Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that individuals have the right to grow and distribute marijuana for personal use. Is this pushback to years of strict U.S. drug policy imposed on Mexico? And what does it mean for the region’s war on drugs?

The Mexico Institute’s Deputy Director Christopher Wilson joined Huffington Post Live to discuss the Mexican Supreme Court’s ruling and its effect on the U.S.-Mexico relationship and the war on drugs. Other guests included Sylvia Longmire, Author of ‘Cartel: The Coming Invasion of Mexico’s Drug Wars’ and ‘Border Insecurity’; Isaac Campos, History Professor, University of Cincinnati, Author of ‘Home Grown’; and Hannah Hetzer, Policy Manager of the Americas, Drug Policy Alliance.

Click here to watch the segment on Huffington Post Live.

How to Boost Border Competitiveness? Just Ask the Folks There.

2/10/2015 Forbes.com

By Christopher Wilson and Erik Lee

border coverFor years, the United States’ southern border with Mexico has provoked a range of fears, from terrorism and drugs to overwhelming numbers of unauthorized immigrants, prompting a security-first and often security-only approach to border management. Fear-based rhetoric may resonate in the echo chambers of Washington DC, but it feels wholly out of touch to most (though not all) residents of border communities.

Thankfully, with U.S.-Mexico trade at historic highs and growing faster than trade with any other major trading partner, it is increasingly difficult to ignore the importance of safe and efficient border management to the regional economy. U.S.-Mexico trade is now valued at well over a half trillion dollars per year, 80 percent of which crosses the U.S.-Mexico land border. This trade supports around six million U.S. jobs, and systems of co-production in manufacturing allow companies to combine the comparative advantages of the United States and Mexico, boosting the competitiveness of North America as a whole.

These trends are leading some political leaders to the realization that many in the border region have known for years: the border itself creates a lot of economic opportunity for both nations. And these folks in the border region—popularly imagined to be barely hanging on in a hail of gunfire, even on the sleepy U.S. side—are careful observers of what works and what does not work in terms of trade and economic development. Knowing this, we joined several other organizations in a year-long deep dive into the inner workings of the U.S.-Mexico border economy. But then even we were surprised by the sheer number, variety and magnitude of ideas emanating from this enormous, misunderstood and underappreciated region.

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