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By EARL ANTHONY WAYNE, former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico

Mexico and the United States cannot escape the need to collaborate. The big test is how well the governments can work together with the arrival of President Joe Biden.

The action agenda is urgent: handling migration from Central America, deepening anti-crime coordination, managing the pandemic and recovery, and implementing the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), including Mexico’s treatment of energy investments and protection of labor rights.

President Biden arrives with the deepest understanding of Mexico of any US president.  His strong predilection is to reinforce cooperation.  Until recently, however, President Andres Manual Lopez Obrador (AMLO) was not welcoming.  He also placed a serious legal spanner in Mexico-US anti-crime cooperation.  One can debate why AMLO adopted this stance, but the challenge is whether the leaders and their teams can rebuild enough trust to find and implement solutions.

The stakes are immense.

Legal trade is about $1 million a minute. That represents about 80 percent of Mexico’s imports.  That trade supports almost 5 million U.S. jobs.

Illicit drug trade fuels tens of thousands of deaths in each country via drug overdoses and criminal violence. A new surge of Central American migrants would spark a crisis for the Biden administration.

U.S. companies and unions are worried about Mexico’s implementation of USMCA.

Much work remains to deal with the pandemic’s effects.

The neighbors should establish quickly the dialogue and processes to manage these challenges well.

EARL ANTHONY WAYNE is a former U.S. ambassador to Mexico, co-chair of the advisory board of the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute, and a distinguished diplomat in residence at the American University’s School of International Service.

…Feb. 2, 2021

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