What the U.S. can learn from Mexico
December 31st, 2012
06:47 AM ET

What the U.S. can learn from Mexico

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By Global Public Square staff

A few weeks ago, the president told a newspaper the solution to partisanship is politics and more politics. That’s how you work toward the building of agreements.

Unfortunately, it wasn't Barack Obama. It was Mexico’s Enrique Pena Nieto. As Washington has been mired in gridlock this year, consider what’s happening just across the border. One of the first things Pena Nieto did after assuming office just weeks ago was to announce a pact for Mexico, an ambitious set of reforms to raise taxes, increase competition and take on the teachers’ unions.

Now, it is one thing to announce a plan, quite another to get support for it and President Pena Nieto's pact comes with endorsements from across the spectrum, the conservatives he ousted from office as well as the leftist Democrats.

While the world has gotten used to a torrent of images and news of drug-related violence from Mexico, another side of this country has been quietly developing.

Consider the facts: Mexico’s GDP is expected to grow by nearly 4 percent this year, twice as fast as Brazil or, for that matter, the United States. It is riding a manufacturing boom. Mexico is now the world’s fourth biggest producer of cars, according to the World Trade Atlas. Starting next year, new taxis in New York City will carry a “made in Mexico' label.” Mexico is also the world's top exporter of flat screen TVs. In fact, Mexico exports more manufactured products than all the other countries in Latin America combined.

More from GPS: Misconceptions about Mexico

Three main factors are in play: For one, geography. Sharing a border with the United States means heavy products are cheaper to transport across than if they were manufactured in, say, Asia.

A second factor is NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. Mexican products are subject to lower duties than those from other countries. In fact, The Economist points out that Mexico has trade deals with 44 countries, the most of any nation in the world.

The third factor is wages. As other manufacturing hubs become more expensive, Mexico has become more competitive. According to HSBC, in 2000 Mexican workers earned nearly five times the salary of their Chinese peers. But, by 2011, Mexican workers were only about a third more expensive than Chinese workers.

When you project all these advantages into the next few years, Mexico’s economic future looks robust. The National Intelligence Council released an important report called Global Trends 2030. One of the trends it looks at is how demographic changes will shape the world. Countries with younger, more dynamic populations will grow faster.

While the median age in Mexico will be 34 in 2030, the median Chinese or Russian age will be about ten years older. Japan’s median age will hit 52. America actually has an advantage here, at 39 our median age will only be five years older than that of Mexico's. Trends don't ensure particular outcomes, but it's clear that contrary to its global image, Mexico's economy has momentum. It will be among the world's top ten economies by the end of this decade.

Smart reforms can build it further. The irony is that one possible impediment to Mexico’s growth could be the very country that is its biggest asset – the United States. If we slow down, so will Mexico. But perhaps that can be avoided if Washington's polarized factions could agree on a way forward. Maybe we need to take some lessons from south of the border.

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Topics: Latin America • Mexico

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soundoff (246 Responses)
  1. j denis huggard

    good am jan 5/2013-comments on mexico-i am age 76-still financing resorts-crime in mexico-will not change-narcos into spiritual-financing several holiday inns in 1980,s/worked under corp umbrella scotts hospitality-toronto-new name now-over 100 hotels-i have directed my focus on aruba/curacao/costa rica-zero crime-but goofy banking systems-bankhsbcmexico got into 200billion in laundering-amazing-i know their mexican brancheswell-inconsistant-unruly/get your financing from canada-ask cnn for my em mail-i can assisst/j denis huggard/north vcv,b.c,canada

    January 5, 2013 at 11:59 am | Reply
  2. ajac09

    maybe its time for Americans to cross the boarder!

    January 5, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Reply
    • Call me Bwana

      Why would you cross your boarder? Better cross the border...

      January 5, 2013 at 3:02 pm | Reply
  3. Jacob

    A military Major friend asked what he should be on the look out for as he is gonna be stationed close to the Mexico border, a city where lots of Mexican Americans live.
    He asked "I gotta be careful, they chop heads off over there".

    First I looked at him like, "They made you a Major"
    Second; "That only happens in Mexico, plus military are prohibited from entering Mexico".
    Third, "It would help if you learned a little Spanish"
    Fourth, "You will be in a region where Mexican food is Top Notch with countless of restaurants competing for you dollar".
    And last, "Open your mind a little" he didn't appreciate that, figures coming from an American who only knows one culture.

    January 5, 2013 at 2:43 pm | Reply
    • El Paso, Texas native

      Your friend is probably being stationed at Ft. Bliss, Texas. I grew up there and it is 85% Mexican American. One of the safest towns in America with great quality of life and friendly people. Across the border is Juarez, but you don't want to go there.

      January 8, 2013 at 1:43 am | Reply
  4. Call me Bwana

    If I run a tube from my butt to my car`s engine, how many black bean burritos will I need to ingest in order to get from Amarillo to Cabo San Lucas?

    January 5, 2013 at 3:01 pm | Reply
  5. LanaJean

    It's NOT their clean water system ! !

    January 5, 2013 at 5:25 pm | Reply
  6. Harv

    One of the best things we can learn from Mexico is to examine their illegal immigration laws and adopt them here

    January 5, 2013 at 5:48 pm | Reply
  7. Jmj49

    There is much we can learn from Mexico. Its southern borders are secure and those who come in illegally are jailed and deported. Voter ID is required. The ID has a picture protected by a holograph and a thumb print, they successfully send there excess unemployed across the northern border to work, collect benefits and send cash back to Mexico. They do not have a freeloader welfare system. Foreigners are not given free benefits, any state benefit will only be given to a person with an official ID. So let's follow Mexico's shining example.

    January 5, 2013 at 8:06 pm | Reply
  8. Just Another US Friend (That's Amigo, in Spanish).

    Building an EV kit car in my parents' garage sounds appealing, but A) It's probably very expensive and not safe enough, and B) nobody is going to pay me unless I sell the vehicle, and I want to build one that I can use. So where does that situation leave people like me in the US as a less than wealthy American? Eh?

    January 5, 2013 at 10:03 pm | Reply
  9. Al

    Lets see what can America learn:
    1. Encourage those that are dependent on welfare, food stamps and just refuse to take a job to move north to Canada.
    2. Help those that qualify for number 1 to get closer to the border.

    January 5, 2013 at 10:04 pm | Reply
  10. rotorhead1871

    that rats have 2 legs.....

    January 5, 2013 at 10:37 pm | Reply
  11. Billinanza

    What can the US learn from Mexico? To punish lawbreakers harshly enough that future lawbreakers will think twice before breaking the law in the first place.

    January 5, 2013 at 11:48 pm | Reply
  12. DavidInNC

    We could also have a robust economy. Military spending has been a drag on our economy. Take about half of what we spend on the military and put it to work building roads and bridges, replacing dams and replacing our electrical grid system so that we can use our largest energy resource, the wind. By doing all of these things, we would create more jobs than has been created over the last decade combined.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:08 am | Reply
  13. big azz

    mexican, please. we can learn how to flavor guacamole from them. thats all.

    January 6, 2013 at 11:50 am | Reply
  14. big bird

    It is good to see Mexico doing well; the people deserve a lot better than they have been getting. That is good for the US. Their corruption and gross income inequality will keep them from getting to where they could.

    January 6, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Reply
  15. Quiet Guy

    Our median US age will be almost as young as Mexico because so much of our population will be Mexican.

    Mexico teaches us that the best export is unwanted people and our most valuable import is unregistered Democrats. Eric Holder distributes assault weapons to Mexican criminals while Sheriff and pistol-packing hypocrite Feinstein seeks to criminalize US citizens for a semi-auto .22 squirrel gun. Yep, there's a whole lot that Mexico can teach us.

    January 6, 2013 at 1:21 pm | Reply
  16. Robert

    One big advantge that Mexico has over the US, is that is has the PRI. Please don't get me wrong here. I know the PRI has a history of intense corruption, but what I am trying to say is that Mexico has a centrist party represented by the PRI, the PAN would be the equivalent to the Republicans and the PRD the equivalent to the Democrats. Having a 3rd centrist party allows to break the polarizing politics we have seen in the US for decades and to find majority support in many issues that would otherwise be frozen in gridlock. We the people of the US could take a lesson from that. Imagine if in the US we had a strong 3rd party that would tend to be moderatelly socially conservative and moderatelly economically liberal.

    January 6, 2013 at 5:19 pm | Reply
    • southernquilts

      Learn to spell, and properly construct a sentence.

      January 6, 2013 at 5:34 pm | Reply
  17. southernquilts

    If Mexico is doing so well, then feed your people. Maybe they'll stop invading our country. Deport them.

    January 6, 2013 at 5:33 pm | Reply
    • Maks

      Mexicans are very racists more than any race in the world. They come here illegally and enjoy the fruits of the economy and they produce kids to become US Citizens (They dont use condoms, say it is against their catholic religion, what a joke) and at the same time they hate America and they be loyal to Mexican flag and they carry it everywhere. What a hypocracy it is? We, the Americans are also responsible for their illegal boom, because in the beginning we are very sorry for them and we thought they are just coming because they dont have a good living there, so we acted as humanly with passion, so Mexicans took advantage of they and started jumping the border. They are so racist that when they meet another Mexican, they only talk in Spanish, forgetting that there are other American folks there who doesn't understand Spanish, why should they, because they forced America to learn Spanish and waste tax payers money, by forcing us to print every communication in both English and Spanish. Bravo Mexicano!!! Nice game.

      January 6, 2013 at 9:12 pm | Reply
  18. sickatheart

    This writer must be talking about the diplomacy of the Mexican President. Does he mean that their President has more tact and diplomacy and is able to actually lead the policy makers of his country? If that is what he means then I totally agree.

    January 6, 2013 at 7:16 pm | Reply
  19. Kregg

    What the U.S. can learn from mexico? dont p!ss and s&*t in your own drinking water for starters

    January 6, 2013 at 8:59 pm | Reply
  20. bruce

    What we can learn from Mexico. Allowing most of the resources of an entire nation to be controlled by a very small porton of its residence leaves millions of people in absolute poverty. Almost sounds like where America is going

    January 6, 2013 at 9:31 pm | Reply
  21. donaldo perez

    Hey man,,,, go to tijuana.. and see what its happening... go to Chiapas...Oaxaca.. as a reporter or as a camera man... live there for 3 days..;.. and then give me an opinion ok??? you see tooo much soap operas my friend

    January 6, 2013 at 11:12 pm | Reply
  22. TJ

    Hey SIanderer (aka SIandrew), Now that you've taught us all about the four major races here on Earth (Caucasoid, MongoIoid, Neg roid, and Mexisoid), why don't you move to Borneo and teach them about how IiberaIism is a severe mentaI disorder.

    January 7, 2013 at 12:14 am | Reply
  23. empresstrudy

    Mexico's one term presidencies are a nice start.

    January 7, 2013 at 6:17 pm | Reply
  24. Mauricio Frank Hoeflich

    Mexican hunger salaries do not produce stability. To the contrary, mini wages throw thousands into the hands of drug traffickers.

    January 7, 2013 at 7:50 pm | Reply
  25. eat.vn

    Hi, Neat post. There is an issue along with your site in web explorer, might test this? IE still is the marketplace chief and a large component to folks will miss your magnificent writing because of this problem.

    January 13, 2013 at 12:17 pm | Reply
  26. bribarian

    what we can learn, send all your poor into a richer country, then steal

    January 13, 2013 at 7:01 pm | Reply
  27. Jimjam77887

    President Obama can learn that disarming the people leaves only the lawless armed, and the citizens like sheep to the slaughter.

    January 14, 2013 at 8:57 pm | Reply
  28. lweba

    Americans go by instincts not by rational thinking. Introduce a new thing to them they will react by their instincts. Had they been using brains they would have changed many of their indefensible laws. America has abundant natural resources an advantage over other countries. Things are changing but, the national debt is pulling America under and if nothing rational is done about it soon, some nations which Americans despise will soon pull ahead of her!

    January 15, 2013 at 11:13 am | Reply
  29. Eddie Fonseca

    As Americans we always see on the local newes another tourist getting killed in Mexico, on Tel Mundo or CNN like's to present the topic that Mexico is a dangerous places where the drug lord thrive and make millions when selling drugs across the border to places in the United States of America and Canada as well. Mexico is not just a place where people are drug mules and the industry is based on drugs and guns, it's quite a rich country that has lot's of history and has given us singers and food that entered the American markets. Being an American who has visted Mexico the people have always been open minded to talk about their cultures, and music with them over cup of coffie or soda with them at the local cafe. As Americans we must travel outside of borders and explore different cultures and not judge them what we see on the local newes, this has been our mistake for many years when we judge races like the American Hispanic community and Arab American community as well in our society. What as Americans we can learn from Mexico is to be open minded and learn to listen and share ideas with our friends south of the border, and not to judge all hard working Mexcians as illegal workers who want to steal our jobs but treat with respect and let them be apart our of growing society for years to come.

    September 5, 2013 at 12:12 am | Reply
  30. Johnathan Nolan

    i hate coach Williams

    March 4, 2015 at 8:39 pm | Reply
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