Mexico: Background and U.S. Relations

Mexico, the 10th most populous country globally, has the 15th largest economy in the world. It is currently the top U.S. trade partner and a major source of energy for the United States, with which it shares a nearly 2,000-mile border and strong economic, cultural, and historical ties.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the populist leader of the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) party, which he created in 2014, took office for a six-year term in December 2018. López Obrador is the first Mexican president in over two decades to enjoy majorities in both chambers of Congress. In addition to combating corruption, he pledged to build infrastructure in southern Mexico, revive the poor-performing state oil company, address citizen security through social programs, and adopt a foreign policy based on the principle of nonintervention.

President López Obrador has remained popular (64% approval in December 2020), even as his government has struggled to address organized crime-related violence, the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, and a deep recession. After high-profile massacres and record homicide levels, the López Obrador government has come under pressure to improve its military led security strategy. Mexico’s economy recorded zero growth in 2019, and the International Monetary Fund estimated it would contract 9.0% in 2020. Nevertheless, President López Obrador has not implemented an economic stimulus plan to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.

U.S. Policy

U.S.-Mexico relations have remained generally cordial. Tensions have emerged, however, over trade policy and tariffs, border security issues, and U.S. arrests of high-level former officials on drug trafficking and related charges. The Mexican government concluded renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and its replacement, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). It accommodated the Trump Administration’s immigration policy changes, which shifted the burden of offering asylum to Mexico. After enacting labor reforms, a USMCA commitment, the López Obrador administration achieved a key foreign policy goal: U.S. congressional approval of implementing legislation for USMCA. In July 2020, President López Obrador traveled to Washington, DC, to meet with President Trump to mark the agreement’s entry into force. Security cooperation could be hindered by Mexico’s recent enactment of legislation limiting foreign law enforcement operations in Mexico.  Purchase this Volume