Washington Examiner: We must keep working with Mexico to serve American interests
On July 1, the Mexican people elected Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador as their new president. During the campaign, Mr. Lopez Obrador used harsh anti-American rhetoric and promises of open-ended migration to Mexico to fuel his candidacy. However, with the campaign season now over, we need to remind ourselves of the long-standing friendship between our two countries and find ways to further strengthen ties between us.
Our common economic and security ties have helped form a partnership from the 20th century into the 21st. This bond has brought economic prosperity for some and punished the criminality of many, but together we must do more.
As chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, I have prioritized securing the border, stopping the illegal flow of contraband between our two countries, and preventing terrorists from coming across our southern border.
Currently, there are three partnerships I believe must endure: the U.S.-Mexico Interparliamentary Group, or IPG, the Merida Initiative, and the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The key to these ongoing partnerships is regular and continued dialogue between our two nations, which is why I proudly serve as chairman of the U.S.-Mexico IPG. This forum allows members of Congress from both countries to convene regularly to discuss areas of joint concern and foster continued partnership on the issues that matter most to our relationship, such as national security and economic prosperity.
As a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I supported the creation — and continued funding — of the Merida Initiative. This is a joint U.S.-Mexico security cooperation program that builds trust and enhances our combined national security interests.
Started in 2007, Merida is intended to improve the security situation in Mexico. This is done through focusing on four “pillars” of cooperation: promotion of rule of law, support of justice sector reform, border security, and crime prevention.
Since its creation, the U.S. has contributed $3 billion to the program and has seen results. For example, our cooperation in the program was key to the capture and extradition to the U.S. of notorious Mexican cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. However, despite such successes, there is much work to do, and I encourage this incoming Mexican administration to work with the Trump administration on using Merida to address the business model of these cartels and criminal organizations.
In discussing this issue with my counterparts in the Mexican Congress, I am hopeful Merida can continue to thrive. At last year’s IPG Summit in Mexico City, my counterparts expressed a willingness to improve efforts to secure their southern border and further increase our mutual security cooperation.
As we see now with Central American migrants coming up through Mexico to the U.S. Southern border, we must work collaboratively, through forums such as Merida and the IPG, to solve the issues that affect both nations.
The bottom line is that increased security cooperation means more stability. With more stability comes increased prosperity and strength of NAFTA.
As the representative of 700,000 Central Texans, including many thriving businesses and communities in the state who rely on the flow of goods and services across our border, I witness every day of the importance of NAFTA for both sides of the border.
Mexico is the No. 1 trading partner of Texas, and utilizes the NAFTA framework to maximize manufacturing efficiency. Goods produced in Texas have inevitably had some production produced in Mexico, and vice versa.
That does not mean NAFTA is perfect. It is a 1994 agreement, and should be modernized for the 21st century. I believe it is imperative for all sides that we find a path forward on a deal. In fact, at our IPG meeting last year, in a joint communique following the conference, we agreed on such a modernization, specifically on the subjects of energy and digital commerce.
I encourage all parties, with the new Lopez Obrador administration now coming to negotiations, to find a pathway on a new agreement. Too much is at stake otherwise.
It has been noted by many domestic and international observers that Mr. Lopez Obrador’s election was a call for change — an end to the poverty, violence, and corruption that has plagued Mexico for decades.
The U.S. can help Mr. Lopez Obrador achieve these goals through partnerships such as U.S-Mexico IPG, Merida, and NAFTA.
U.S.-Mexico ties run deep, and the border that we share creates a host of challenges we must address together. While Mr. Lopez Obrador made some very discouraging comments and policy proposals during the campaign season, I am hopeful we can put any past differences aside, and focus on the economic and security issues that benefit both our great countries.
Congressman Michael McCaul represents the 10th District of Texas. Currently, he serves as chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security and a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The op-ed originally appeared in the Washington Examiner, here.