EL PASO — Mexico and the U.S. are cooperating more than ever before on trade and immigration issues, but the North America Free Trade Agreement needs to be spruced up to deal with 21st Century problems.
Both countries and Canada have changed since 1994 when NAFTA was signed but the policies they agreed to have remained virtually static according to Andrés Rozental, former Mexican Deputy Foreign Minister and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.
“Today there is an unprecedented degree of cooperation between Mexico and the U.S.,” Rozental said, “They have a greater degree of trust, but people change and federal policies stay them same. “
The relationship is slowly evolving and filtering into three very important areas, trade, immigration and security, he said.
Rozental, a career diplomat for Mexico, told faculty and students at the University of Texas at El Paso recently that even with the improved degree of collaboration between the U.S. and Mexico “there’s always more that can be done, especially on the trading issue.”
The “mutual finger pointing” of the past is the cause of today’s bilateral political problems, he said.
Both countries are at fault, he said. “Mexico’s take has always been what I call the ostrich policy. They hid and it was the U.S.’s problem to solve,” Rozental said. “The problem today is worst than it has ever been, but the U.S. has finally accepted its share of the responsibility.”
Advances have been made to improve security since 9-11, he said. Both countries have been very cooperative in sharing intelligence to identify potential threats, he said.
An important new issue is helping Mexico fight against drug trafficking and organized crime, he said. “This has forced the U.S. to look into its internal policies because like Hilary Clinton said: ‘the U.S. has an insatiable appetite for illicit substances’” Rozental recommended the legalization of the medical use of marihuana.
This new cooperation would just be the beginning of a long road, he said citing pending NAFTA issues such as the movement of people. “Ten to 15 years to get a visa is indicative that the system doesn’t work,” he said. “Almost nothing has been done to enhance NAFTA.”