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'Building a Partnership with Mexico'


Earl “Tony” Wayne, former Ambassador to Mexico and current Sol M. Linowitz Visiting Professor of Government, gave an ALEX Talk -- Hamilton’s version of a Ted Talk -- on Oct. 7 titled “Building a Partnership with Mexico.”

Wayne opened his lecture by simply explaining that in this Presidential election, Mexico has been a “a punching bag,” and “pretty unfairly,” at that. He went on to brush past much of the rhetoric of the election to detail the reality of the relationship between our two nations. This relationship, he explained, is one that “touches the daily lives” of many Americans, including the 34 million of Mexican descent. On an international level, the level of government to government collaboration is “unprecedented,” as we are far from the ambivalence of the 1990s.

On a macro level, the U.S. and Mexico rely heavily on each other as trade partners. With nearly $600 billion in yearly trade, this number has increased since the signing of NAFTA in 1993. Wayne quipped that this is “nearly $1.13 million per minute in trade.” Mexico is our 2nd largest client and our 3rd largest trading partner. We sell more to Mexico than all of the BRIC states combined. We also trade twice as much to Mexico as we do to China.  The U.S.-Mexico relationship is one which is vital to the U.S. economy as Mexican goods account for half of the export market in 23 states.

These factors, along with Canada’s willingness to trade have promoted a “unique relationship,” Wayne explained, as “we build things across North America.” There are 18,000 U.S. companies operating in Mexico, while the U.S. has $108 billion of Foreign Direct Investment in Mexico. Despite these investments, new technology and better productivity has led to a decrease in lower skilled work – but an uptick in higher skilled jobs. While the net number of is about the same, many low skilled workers are feeling cheated.

Wayne continued his talk by debunking the mythical proposal of a Mexican border wall. Showing polling on his PowerPoint, Wayne explained that “those concerned about the wall are those who don’t actually live near it.” The flow of immigrants from Mexico is down – in fast at its lowest the 1990s. In fact, there are more Mexicans leaving the country than coming in, as documented by statistics from 2009-2014.

In concluding, Wayne addressed the positive trends in the relationship. Mexico has begun reforming its Justice System and also passed anti-corruption legislation. Furthermore, both the Mexican private and civil society have begun to demand a change from their leadership in relation to establishing a more functional state. Wayne explained that there is a definitive agenda moving forward for both nations. Bilaterally, both nations must improve their law enforcement systems in relation the border. Mexico needs to improve its human rights and poverty issues, while the U.S. must address immigration reform and trade. Finally, Wayne explained that, overall, we need “partnership, not walls” in order to achieve complementary success, security and enable the U.S. to compete with China.


The Sol M. Linowitz Visiting Professor of International Affairs was established in 1986. It is named in honor of a 1935 Hamilton graduate who served as ambassador to the Organization of American States, chairman of the board of Xerox and co-negotiator of the Panama Canal treaties. He was President Jimmy Carter's representative in the the Middle East negotiations from 1979 to 1981. The holder of the Linowitz chair teaches an upper-level seminar course while at Hamilton.

An accomplished diplomat and executive, Ambassador E. Anthony Wayne has served in a wide variety of positions during his career, including U.S. ambassador to Mexico and Argentina, deputy ambassador to Afghanistan, assistant secretary of state for economic and business affairs, and principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Europe. Wayne is a career ambassador, the most senior U.S. diplomatic rank, and currently works as a Public Policy Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Wayne is also a non-executive director on the Financial Systems Vulnerabilities Committee of HSBC Bank in Mexico, a senior nonresident advisor/fellow at the Atlantic Council and the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.  

Read synopses of the other ALEX talks

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