U.S. Relations With Mexico
More information about Mexico is available on the Mexico Page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.
U.S. relations with Mexico are strong and vital. The two countries share a 2,000-mile border, and bilateral relations between the two have a direct impact on the lives and livelihoods of millions of Americans, whether the issue is trade and economic reform, education exchange, citizen security, drug control, migration, entrepreneurship and innovation, or the environment. The scope of U.S.-Mexican relations is broad and goes beyond diplomatic and official relations. It entails extensive commercial, cultural, and educational ties, with some 1.4 billion dollars of two-way trade and hundreds of thousands of legal border crossings each day. In addition, a million American citizens live in Mexico. U.S. tourists to Mexico numbered over 20 million in 2013 making Mexico the top destination of U.S. travelers. Mexican tourists to the U.S. were over 14 million in 2013, and they spent an estimated $10.5 billion.
Bilateral Economic Issues
In September 2013, Vice President Biden and his Mexican government counterparts launched the High Level Economic Dialogue (HLED) to further elevate and strengthen the U.S.-Mexico bilateral commercial and economic relationship. The HLED, which is led at the cabinet level by the Secretaries of State and Commerce and the U.S. Trade Representative, is envisioned as a flexible platform intended to advance strategic economic and commercial priorities central to promoting mutual economic growth, job creation, and competitiveness. It serves to facilitate dialogue and joint initiatives and to promote shared approaches to regional and global economic leadership. It will build on, but not duplicate, a range of existing successful bilateral dialogues and working groups. The HLED had its first meeting in September 2013 chaired by the Vice President, and will meet again at that level in late 2014. Cabinet and sub-cabinet level meetings throughout 2014 have been driving forward the HLED’s priorities.
Mexico is the United States’ second-largest export market (after Canada) and third-largest trading partner (after Canada and China). In 2013, two-way trade in goods and services was more than $550 billion. Mexico's exports rely heavily on supplying the U.S. market, but the country has also sought to diversify its export destinations. Nearly 80 percent of Mexico’s exports in 2013 went to the United States. In 2013, Mexico was the third-largest supplier of foreign crude oil to the United States, as well as the largest export market for U.S. refined petroleum products and a growing market for U.S. natural gas. Top U.S. exports to Mexico include electrical machinery, nuclear equipment, motor vehicle parts, mineral fuels and oils, and plastics. Stock foreign direct investment by U.S. companies in Mexico stands at $101 billion, while Mexican investment is $17.6 billion, and has grown by over 35 percent the past five years. It is the seventh fastest growing investor country in the United States.
Through the North American Leaders’ Summits, the United States, Canada, and Mexico cooperate to improve North American competitiveness, ensure the safety of their citizens, and promote clean energy and a healthy environment. The three nations also cooperate on hemispheric and global challenges, such as managing transborder infectious diseases and seeking greater integration to respond to challenges of transnational organized crime.
The U.S. and Mexico, along with Canada, are partners in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and enjoy a broad and expanding trade relationship. All three countries are also negotiating partners in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an agreement slated to elevate the standards for global trade and improve North American access to Asian markets. Mexico is currently President Pro Tempore of the Pacific Alliance, a regional economic integration effort spearheaded also by Chile, Colombia, and Peru. Mexico is a champion of free trade, having more free trade agreements than any other country in the world, including pacts with Japan, the EU, and many Latin American partners. Mexico joined the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations in 2012, which will establish new and higher standards for global trade. Also in 2012, Mexico joined Chile, Colombia, and Peru to launch an ambitious regional economic integration effort, the Pacific Alliance, focused on liberalizing trade and investment, as well as facilitating the movement of citizens.
Mexico is a major recipient of remittances, sent mostly from Mexicans in the United States, totaling over $22.4 billion in 2012. Most remittances are used for immediate consumption -- food, housing, health care, education -- but some collective remittances, sent from Mexican migrants in the U.S. to their community of origin, are used for shared projects and infrastructure improvements under Mexico’s “3 for 1” program that matches contributions with federal, state, and local funds. Protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR) is essential to foster economic growth and innovation. Mexico has seen moderate success and continued challenges on the IPR front, particularly on enforcement of IPR. The 2014 U.S. Trade Representative Special 301 Report, a yearly evaluation of IPR and market access conditions that exist with U.S. trading partners, designated Mexico as a “Watch List” country. The 2014 report noted the widespread availability of pirated and counterfeit goods in Mexico and the lack of coordination between authorities responsible for enforcing IPR. The U.S. continues to support and urge Mexico to take the necessary steps to improve the IPR protection and enforcement environment in Mexico.
U.S. Mexico Border
The border region, defined as the ten U.S. and Mexican border states, represents a combined population of nearly 100 million people and the world’s fourth largest economy. Cooperation between the United States and Mexico along our border includes state and local problem-solving mechanisms; transportation planning; and collaboration in institutions that address resource, environment, and health issues. In 2010, a high level Executive Steering Committee for 21st Century Border Management was created to spur advancements in creating a modern, secure, and efficient border. The multi-agency U.S.-Mexico Binational Group on Bridges and Border Crossings meets three times a year to improve the efficiency of existing crossings and coordinate planning for new ones. The ten U.S. and Mexican border states are active participants in these meetings. Chaired by U.S. and Mexican consuls, Border Liaison Mechanisms operate in "sister city" pairs and have proven to be an effective means of dealing with a variety of local issues including border infrastructure, accidental violation of sovereignty by law enforcement officials, charges of mistreatment of foreign nationals, and cooperation in public health matters. We have many other mechanisms involving out border region, including Border Master Plans to coordinate infrastructure and development, and close collaboration on transportation and customs issues.
The United States and Mexico have a long history of cooperation on environmental and natural resource issues, particularly in the border area, where there are serious environmental problems caused by rapid population growth, urbanization, and industrialization. Cooperative activities between the U.S. and Mexico take place under a number of arrangements such as the U.S.-Mexico Border 2012/2020 Program; the North American Development Bank and the Border Environment Cooperation Commission; the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation; the Border Health Commission; and a variety of other agreements that address border health, wildlife and migratory birds, national parks, forests, and marine and atmospheric resources. The International Boundary and Water Commission, created by a treaty between the United States and Mexico, is an international organization responsible for managing a wide variety of water resource and boundary preservation issues.
The two countries also have cooperated on telecommunications services in the border area for more than 50 years. Recent border agreements cover mobile broadband services, including smartphones, and similar devices. The High Level Consultative Commission on Telecommunications continues to serve as the primary bilateral arena for both governments to promote growth in the sector and to ensure compatible services in the border area. The United States and Mexico are implementing an agreement to improve cross-border public security communications in the border area.
In May 2013, President Obama and President Peña Nieto announced the U.S.-Mexico Bilateral Forum on Higher Education, Innovation and Research (herein referred to as the Bilateral Forum) to expand opportunities for educational exchanges, scientific research partnerships, and cross-border innovation to help both countries develop a 21st century workforce for both our mutual economic prosperity and sustainable social development. The Bilateral Forum complements President Obama’s 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiative, which seeks to increase student mobility between the United States and the countries of the Western Hemisphere, including Mexico. It also complements Mexico’s program Proyecta 100,000 that aims to send 100,000 Mexican students to the United States and to bring 50, 000 US students to Mexico by 2018.
Entrepreneurship And Innovation
Another related effort is the Mexico-U.S. Entrepreneurship and Innovation Council (MUSEIC) which seeks to enhance regional competitiveness by strengthening the North American high-impact entrepreneurship ecosystem. MUSEIC is made up of public and private sector representatives from both countries who are working to develop new initiatives along with public policies to promote entrepreneurship and innovation. This work through the Bilateral Forum and MUSEIC builds upon and augments the many existing productive educational and research linkages between U.S. and Mexican academic institutions, civil society, and the private sector.
U.S. Security Cooperation with Mexico
The Merida Initiative is an unprecedented partnership between the United States and Mexico to address violence and criminality while strengthening the rule of law and the respect for human rights. Since 2010, our Merida Initiative cooperation has been organized under four strategic pillars. The first pillar aims to disrupt the capacity of organized crime to operate and the second pillar focuses on enhancing the capacity of Mexico’s government and institutions to sustain the rule of law. The Merida Initiative’s third pillar aims to improve border management to facilitate legitimate trade and movement of people while thwarting the flow of drugs, arms, and cash. Finally, the fourth pillar seeks to build strong and resilient communities.
U.S. cooperation with Mexico under the Merida Initiative directly supports programs to help Mexico train and equip its law enforcement agencies, promote a culture of lawfulness, implement key justice reforms, and modernize Mexico’s borders. Through fiscal year 2013, the U.S. Congress has appropriated $2.15 billion for the Merida Initiative. U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) programs under the Merida Initiative support Mexican efforts to address key challenges to improving citizen security and well-being, developing and testing models to mitigate the community-level impact of crime and violence, and support Mexico’s implementation of criminal justice constitutional reforms that protect citizens’ rights.
In addition to the Merida Initiative, the U.S. and Mexico collaborate on security policy through high-level exchanges to develop strategies for work on security matters that affect both countries. Through this process, the U.S and Mexico develop joint approaches to combat transnational organized crime, enhance law enforcement cooperation, and stem the flow of illicit money and arms across our common border.
Mexico's Membership in International Organizations
Mexico is a strong supporter of the United Nations (UN) and Organization of American States (OAS) systems, and hosted the G-20 Leaders’ Summit in 2012. Mexico and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank (WB), and World Trade Organization (WTO). In 2012, Mexico became a member of the Wassenaar Arrangement, a multilateral export control regime for conventional arms and dual-use goods. Mexico was elected in late 2013 to a three-year tour on the UN Human Rights Council. In 2013, Mexico joined the Australia Group, an informal forum of countries which, through the harmonization of export controls, seeks to ensure that exports do not contribute to the development of chemical or biological weapons.
Mexico maintains an embassy in the United States at 1911 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20006 (tel. 202-728-1600).
More information about Mexico is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:
Department of State Mexico Page
Department of State Key Officers List
CIA World Factbook Mexico Page
U.S. Embassy: Mexico
USAID Mexico Page
History of U.S. Relations With Mexico
Human Rights Reports
International Religious Freedom Reports
Trafficking in Persons Reports
Narcotics Control Reports
Investment Climate Statements
Office of the U.S. Trade Representative Countries Page
U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics
Export.gov International Offices Page
Library of Congress Country Studies
International Boundary and Water Commission, U.S. Section Page
Travel and Business Information
Department of Energy: U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) Analysis
Department of Commerce: Mid-Year Review of High Level Economic Dialogue Progress
Trilateral Agreement with United States, Canada, and Mexico to Expand Trusted Traveler Programs