January 29, 2023


The U.S.-Mexico border is the locus of a chaotic influx of migrants from across the Americas that shows no signs of abating. The American opioid crisis is fueled by cheap pharmaceuticals smuggled north by Mexico’s drug cartels.

Yet at the same time economic cooperation among North America’s three increasingly intertwined countries is setting the stage for an era of growth and rising prosperity, many experts say. Post-pandemic, the global economy is shifting increasingly from globalization to what economists have dubbed “regionalization,” and the North American trade area is ideally positioned to capitalize.

Why We Wrote This

The three North American leaders meeting in Mexico next week are well positioned, in theory, to take advantage of shifts in global trade. But they have pressing short-term crises to overcome first.

It is this mix of regional crises against a promising economic backdrop that President Joe Biden will confront as he meets with the leaders of Mexico and Canada next week.

“There are good things going on that over the long term can deliver growth and prosperity across North America, especially if the leaders can enhance existing regional cooperation,” says Earl Anthony Wayne, a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico.

But those positive trends could end up “obscured” at the summit. “Migration and border management are the really big issues, but no one is coming up with good solutions,” he adds. “The shortcomings in handling these critical border issues affect how all our peoples perceive the prospects for the North American community.”

As Joe Biden visits Mexico City Monday – the first foray by a U.S. president to the southern neighbor in nearly a decade – the prevailing perception of the U.S.-Mexico relationship is one of crisis, dysfunction, and danger.

The U.S.-Mexico border is the locus of a chaotic influx of migrants from across the Americas that shows no signs of abating. The opioid crisis that led to more than 100,000 American deaths last year is fueled by cheap pharmaceuticals like fentanyl smuggled north by Mexico’s drug cartels. Communities on the north side of the border complain that lax enforcement of environmental regulations to the south is fouling the region’s air and scarce water.

Yet at the same time, the U.S.-Mexico border and economic cooperation more broadly among North America’s three increasingly intertwined countries – the United States, Mexico, and Canada – are also setting the stage for an era of growth and rising prosperity, many international economists and regional experts say.

Why We Wrote This

The three North American leaders meeting in Mexico next week are well positioned, in theory, to take advantage of shifts in global trade. But they have pressing short-term crises to overcome first.

Post-pandemic, the global economy is shifting increasingly from globalization to what economists have dubbed “regionalization” – a tendency toward regional poles of production and investment, driven by everything from the disruption of supply chains to the U.S.-China trade war and environmental concerns.

The North American trade area is ideally positioned to capitalize, analysts say.



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