- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Citing new research that shows population flows have basically leveled off between Mexico and the United States, Mexican President Felipe Calderon told U.S. business leaders Tuesday that illegal immigration was fading as a flash point of division between the two countries.

“Today, we are tying,” Mr. Calderon said in a speech on U.S.-Mexican business relations to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “What that means is today we are reducing migration to the United States.”

A Pew Hispanic Center study released Monday reported a startling shift in traditional patterns of migration north and south of the border. From 1995 to 2000, 2.9 million Mexicans came to the United States, while only 670,000 Americans moved to Mexico. But from 2005 to 2010, nearly 1.4 million people living in the United States relocated to Mexico, met by the same number of Mexicans heading north.

The Mexican president, who was not scheduled to meet with President Obama on his Washington visit, said one reason for the shift was increasing opportunities for Mexicans at home coupled with a decline in the attraction of the U.S. economy.

“Actually, a lot of Mexican people are thinking and coming back to our country,” he said. “There is a switching of opportunities. The agricultural sector in the United States is losing a lot competitiveness and opportunities due to restrictions.”

Mexico is one of more than a dozen countries that has filed a brief with the Supreme Court arguing against Arizona’s 2010 law instituting one of the toughest crackdowns on illegal immigration in the nation.

“Mexico cannot conduct effective negotiations with the U.S. when the foreign policy decisions of the federal governments are undermined by individual states,” according to the Mexico brief.

Mr. Calderon also spoke about the importance of trade in the bilateral relationship, and pressed the Obama administration to consider joining an Asia-Pacific trade bloc Mexico has been promoting along with Canada and Japan. The three countries in November asked to join the United States and eight other nations in the region - Australia, New Zealand, Peru, Chile, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei - in talks to form a new “Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

“The world needs more trade, and not less trade,” he said during his speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “The world needs more freedom, and not less freedom. We need more investment.”

Mexico’s trade agenda has grown since Mr. Calderon took office in 2006, focusing on trade liberalization, tariff reduction, deregulation, macroeconomic stability, investment in infrastructure and investment in education.

“We are deepening our commitment to free trade,” he said. “We need to remember the benefits of trade. Trade is positive for the economy. Consumers win, workers win, producers win, we all win with trade.”

Trade fueled a 4 percent growth in Mexican gross domestic product in 2011, according to Mr. Calderon, leading to 600,000 new jobs. In 2011, Mexico was responsible for nearly 12 percent of U.S. imports, compared to 6.9 percent in 1993, just before the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and the United States was ratified.

“Mexico is winning market share,” he said.

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