When we think of Mexico, too often we think of illegal immigration and “the wall.” In reality, Mexico should be considered a much closer US ally than we give it credit. In all the discussion about the USMCA, NAFTA, the wall and economy, we are missing a big point: Mexico is our best way to fight our reliance on Chinese goods.
Mexico benefited from NAFTA, and it stands to benefit from the new USMCA treaty, which is going through ratification now in the US, Canada and Mexico. The deal is good all around, giving every country a little bit while focusing on protecting things like intellectual property rights and workers rights, which in the long term benefit employees. Mexico can continue its process of importing (tariff free) raw goods, processing them, and then exporting to the US, which is its primary destination.
Mexico can, and should, be our alternate to China. While China threatens us and our allies everyday, Mexico has stayed relatively friendly. Yes, there is an illegal immigration problem, but Mexico is increasingly having more people immigrate into the country than leaving the country. The largest issue hurting the economy is the drug trade and violence that comes with it, costing the country somewhere in the $200-300 billion in losses.
If the US and Mexico could solve the border issue and drug trade (perhaps through legalization?), Mexico could become an easy weapon against cheap Chinese goods. Not only would it be cheaper to ship goods to the US due to distance, but from a military perspective its an “interior line,” meaning that it doesn’t cut across boundaries that are susceptible to attack. This makes the US less susceptible to Chinese attempts to break the economy. Contrast this with the Chinese reliance on oil and other goods, most of which arrive via ship, and suddenly China loses a lot of leverage over the US.
This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.