Nafta, Mexico and The Americas
Mexicans have long been discussing about the future of the nation. The polls show that most Mexicans are not happy with how things go. Mexico is suffering a growing unemployment and the deep financial crisis that originated in the U.S. took their toll on Mexico. The Mexican economy is not growing, and poverty has been increasing.
President Felipe Calderon´s war against drug trafficking are just the tip of the iceberg in a country with alarming levels of crime of all kinds, starting with the corruption of many of the members of its ruling class.
Proof of this is that one of those considered among the strongest men in the world is Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman, leader of the Sinaloa Cartel, the most wanted drug trafficker in Mexico since he escaped from a maximum security prison in 2001 (see Forbes magazine and its ranking of the most powerful). The magazine estimated the fortune of the drug lord in one billion US dollars.
In spite of being Mexico the cheapest country in the world with the lowest production costs for manufacturing production (cheaper than over China itself) , Mexico’s internal situation is chaotic. Not only for the declared “state of war on drugs” but also by the failure of the Mexican transition after the disappearance of the political monopoly of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, PRI.
Metals oligarch Oleg Deripaska close friend of the russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
The current situation of Mexico reminds me a lot of what happened in Russia during the 90s , after the fall of the Union Soviet. We all can recall how the former communist apparatchiks, once the fall of the soviets was a fact, switched to “capitalism” and bought the state companies almost with no money at all. The new Russian capitalists were named by the people as “the oligarchs”. The oligarchs surrounded Boris Yeltsin and made possible the access to power of Vladimir Putin.
The situation in Mexico is very similar. As Russia, Mexico has no great democratic traditions, both countries had a one party state until the beginning of the 90s -the Mexican Partido Revolucionario Institucional PRI and the CPSU Communist Party of the Soviet Union- , the political transition began well and ended disastrously and the Mexicans have also similar cases.
The richest man in Mexico is today Mr.Carlos Slim, also the sixth most powerful man in the world according to Forbes Magazine, not to start talking about the Salinas de Gortari, the Fox and many others.
These days there are countless criticisms of the Mexicans toward both the North American Free Trade Agreement NAFTA and the Washington Consensus , which refer to the policy advice being addressed by the Washington-based institutions to Latin American countries as of 1989.
According to critics, the Washington Consensus is guilty of the “arbitrary and wasteful” management of the Mexican ruling class which in spite of self declaring themselves as neoliberals, they does not want to cede any of their privileges.
The Washington Consensus is, they say, to blame for new “disorder” after the debacle of the international financial system.
Many look now with envy for today’s models of nations such as Korea, Ireland, India or China, which in two decades took a leap that allowed the conversion of their economies and made them strong exporters. Mexican rulers are accused of hiding behind the skirts of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in order toevade its own responsibilities.
I do agree with some of the critics. One major problem with Mexico is that they focused to much in North America and in the integration to the NAFTA. They thought it was easy to get a entrance ticket into the developed world. They have forgotten the rest of the continent. Since 1988, the role of Mexico in The Americas, specially Latin America, has been weakened. I do think Mexico has been little innovative since NAFTA. The sloth is having limited his intellectual energy to join the North American region.
Today there is no “national” project for Mexico, as for example was devised by the generation of Benito Juárez in the constituent of 1917 when they proposed to overcome structural problems: poverty, income concentration and injustice.
Many think it is time for a change. I do agree with the need of a change for Mexico. But what kind of change?
Some of the more pragmatic feel that everything will work out to Mexico, by adapting to the Asian model, whereby no matter which political model Mexico have, but the reason for success is the success itself. The absence of paradigms and the need for pragmatism in which the way to confront a problem is knowing how to decide which dose of state and market Mexico have to be combined in order to achieve the remedy or solution to the problem.
Many look with envy at China, Malaysia, etc. ..
In my opinion, Mexico has a common destiny with the rest of The Americas. Not only the NAFTA but also the rest of the continent. By being USA biggest partner, Mexico can also help the continent by convincing the USA of Barack Obama about the need to have a common mission with the rest of the American nations.
Which one is the model to try to adapt to the reality of The Americas? In my opinion, the EU, European Union. And Mexico can play a role in The Americas similar to the role of Germany. The germans are the key country between West and East Europe. Mexico can become the key country between North America and the Spanish speaking Latin America. Modern Europe is a result of the work of many countries, specially France and Germany.
The European Union is today the best example in the world what a positive interdependence among nations can achieve. Nowadays , Europe has the greatest chance of building an original political community, while establishing an integrated economic area.
And we all know that the only way to have a fully integrated economy is also having a political and institutional structure that supports the region.
For Mexico the NAFTA is important but in the context of a greater project.
The NAFTA is merely a trade agreement without too many aspirations.
NAFTA is a positive thing but not enough. Not for Mexico, not for the U.S., nor for the rest of The Americas.
The seat of the European Parliament in Strasbourg
NAFTA could not lead Mexico into a union similar to Europe with its partners in Canada and the USA. All that legal and political infrastructure that the EU is trying to build is not present in the Treaty of Free Trade in North America. NAFTA is limited to a simple trade agreement with a few extensions in other areas such as services, investment, environment.
The European Union has succeeded in creating a great model of integration, with strong regulatory and legal infrastructure within a regional economy.
Mexico has an advantage over other American countries, is close to the U.S. and could be also a country with sufficient authority to make a decisive contribution to the Americas have to pass its own model of development, based on positive interdependence in economic, but also politically and socially.
The answer to Mexico is to make possible a project common to The Americas. The solution for Mexico is not by becoming aislationists in North America but in the opening to the south.
The solution for Mexico is to recover its role as a hinge between the north and the south of the continent. A pivotal role that Mexico has lost.
That’s what Mexico needs to regain, its regional leadership and help build institutions in the Americas, or by helping to make viable the current multilateral Institutions. The joint project of the Americas is not created alone. We all need Mexico back.
The Project for the Americas requires common institutions, led by the major countries of the Americas. Including Brazil, USA and Mexico. The Americas need positive mechanisms of social security, health and education, juridical security, solidarity networks, social transfers, rules relating to the environment , and of course, freedom and democracy as the fundamental framework for the whole project.
So what of the title, Mexico should regain its regional role, and along with other great nations in the Americas, help to build The Americas of the XXI Century.