Secretary of State John F. Kerry and his Mexican counterpart touted the growing economic connection between Mexico and the U.S. on Friday, with Mr. Kerry saying that while the security relationship between the two nations remains vital, economic ties are ultimately more important.
"We don't want to define this relationship with Mexico or with other countries in the context of security or ... counternarcotics traffic," Mr. Kerry told reporters at Foggy Bottom after meeting with Mexican Foreign Secretary Jose Antonio Meade. "We want to define it much larger in the context of our citizens' economic needs and our capacity to do more on the economic frontier."
While a bloody drug war between Mexican security forces and drug cartels operating in Mexico has dominated headlines and claimed more 60,000 people in recent years, the nation's economy has quietly grown and become increasingly dynamic with rising automobile, aerospace and high-tech manufacturing sectors.
Such growth has found Mexico increasingly attractive to foreign investment from Europe and more recently China. However, Mexico's economic ties remain strongest with the U.S., particularly in light of co-manufacturing trends that have blossomed between the two nations since the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) nearly two decades ago.
The result is a mounting daily flow of materials back and forth across the U.S.-Mexico border, with a notable percentage of U.S. manufacturing jobs dependent on the relationship.
Mr. Meade asserted on Friday that "Mexico is the most important export market for 22 of the 50 United States states."
The "U.S. exports to Mexico more than it does to China and Japan combined," he said.
Mr. Kerry said bilateral trade between the U.S. and its southern neighbor approached $500 billion in 2012, more than "four times what it was only 20 years ago."
Immigration in the shadows
Immigration reform, a traditionally heated topic of debate between Mexican and U.S. lawmakers, went largely unmentioned during the public remarks by the two men.
Mr. Kerry acknowledged that when it comes to the topic of Mexico, many on the U.S. side of the border are "intently focused on the immigration debate."
"Let me note that the two countries have made significant progress in building and strengthening our security over the course of the last 10 years," he said. "Almost one million people legally cross the U.S.-Mexico border every single day, and more than $1.25 billion in trade passes between our countries every single day."
"You can't do that without major cooperation, but also without providing major opportunities for both of our countries," the secretary of state said.
Mr. Meade he and Mr. Kerry discussed immigration issues during their meeting on Friday. "We welcome the introduction of the immigration reform bill in the U.S. Senate," the Mexican foreign secretary said. "We welcome the fact that ... [it is being] debated seriously and something constructively could, at some point, be achieved. That's an issue that's relevant for Mexico as well."
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