PARTNER-ATLAS

MEXICO

as a partner for the security and stability of Europe, its neighbourhood, and other regions of the world

01 — The key questions for the Partner-Atlas

RELEVANCE: What relevance does Mexico have for Germany with regards to "the security and stability of Europe, its neighbourhood, and other regions of the world"?

In connection with organised crime, drug trafficking, and the infiltration of the state by criminal groups, Mexico – a regional leader and member of the G20 – is facing major challenges that affect both internal and regional security. In view of the cross-border effects of organised crime in Mexico, which extends far beyond the American continent, migration from Central America and other regions of the world through Mexico towards the USA, the significant economic potential as a manufacturing base offering a well-qualified workforce and privileged access to the US market via the North American Free-Trade Area, Mexico is of great importance for the stability of the region.

The Covid 19 pandemic, however, has created major new challenges for Mexico and has exposed the weaknesses and the completely inadequate strategy of the Mexican government in managing the Covid 19 crisis. Taking into account the precarious public health sector and the important role that the informal sector plays in economic life, the negative social and economic impact of the coronavirus crisis is exceptionally high.

From the German perspective, Mexico’s role as an anchor of stability should be viewed primarily in economic terms. With its economic footprint (around 200,000 jobs, all major German automotive OEMs, numerous suppliers), Germany has a clear interest in a stable Mexico, including efficient market access to North America. The recently approved and renewed USMCA Agreement offers the necessary framework.

WILLINGNESS: To what extent is Mexico willing to work with Germany in realising this interest?

From the German perspective, there is a very high level of willingness to work with Mexico, particularly because of the strained transatlantic relationship with the USA in the past. Mexico is an important partner for Germany’s interests in matters of stability because of its G20 membership, its importance in questions of organised (drug) crime and especially because of its very close ties with the USA and privileged access to the US market as provided by the USMCA Agreement.

A very nuanced view must be taken of whether Germany’s strong interest is shared by Mexico. Since the change of government in December 2018, Mexican interest in the relationship has cooled off significantly and persistently at the government level, including in the traditional areas of development cooperation (energy, environment, the dual training system and rule of law).

No noticeable improvement can be expected in areas such as security and economic stability until the end of the term (2024) of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). However, the willingness to cooperate has increased significantly on the part of some state governments (Bajío, Yucatán). The private sector has also made considerable efforts to strengthen cooperation with Germany, but with a clear focus on the economy. The post-Covid period, therefore, offers an opportunity for cooperation, in order to promote an exchange of ideas on the sustainable reactivation of the economy.

STATUS QUO: How close is Germany and Mexico's current cooperation in this area?

Traditionally, there have been good, intensive political – and particularly economic – relations between Mexico and Germany. Bilateral development cooperation is also significant, but is focused on other issues (environment, biodiversity, rule of law, dual training) and therefore does not affect security issues. Moreover, the mood within the López Obrador government in matters of cooperation has markedly deteriorated, because the government wants to set other priorities and rejects existing agreements (for example in the energy sector).

In addition, cooperation on security issues has so far been concentrated almost exclusively on the United States, which has invested considerable resources (for example, as part of the “Mérida Initiative”) in the areas of equipment, intelligence and materials. This concentration is economically, geographically and geostrategically justified and understandable. Over 3,000 kilometres of a common border, 80 percent of Mexican exports going to the US, 50 percent of imports coming from there, migration flows from Central America (and beyond) that are mainly US-bound, drug smuggling that is largely focused on the US, the supply of weapons to the cartels from the US: these are all reasons for a special relationship between the US and Mexico, especially in matters of security.

POTENTIAL: What is the potential for strengthening the partnership between Germany and Mexico in this area?

Given that security issues are focused on the relationship between Mexico and the United States, as described above, there is little room or potential for similar initiatives between Germany and Mexico. Not only during the Trump Presidency, but historically, Mexican-American relations have been characterised by considerable tensions, which means that, at least on the part of Mexico, there is still a recognisable need and also willingness for diversification. This applies particularly to individual federal states that have begun to expand their international relationships. In view of the interdependency between investment and security and the strong presence of German investment in the country’s centre, there is potential for cooperation between experts in areas such as law enforcement, cybersecurity and innovative security concepts.

Since organised crime in particular does not only target the US, but also uses various routes and means to reach Europe, Germany should also be interested in anti-crime concepts and initiatives that are implemented effectively on the ground.

In addition, there is considerable potential in matters of regional stability, since Mexico plays an important role in migration and regional security due to its geostrategic position at the interface between North and South America. This is an aspect of transatlantic relations that Germany and the EU definitely need to give more thought to. This applies, to an even greater extent, to economic stability in the region and to Germany’s foreign economic interests, given the privileged access to US and Canadian markets, as mentioned above.

POLICY RECOMMENDATION: What in German foreign policy has to change in order to fully exploit this potential?

In order to exploit this potential, German policy towards Mexico should not only target the national level, since the potential here is fairly low due to general conditions in the current political configuration, as already outlined. In addition, both Mexico and Germany have been primarily focused, in the past few months, on coping with the impact of the Covid pandemic at the national level. Especially Mexico will still have to grapple with the devastating long-term economic and social consequences of the pandemic in the future. German foreign policy efforts should, therefore, be aimed explicitly at the level of the federal states. In this context, partnerships with German federal states should be supported.

The Centro-Bajío-Occidente region is particularly suitable in view of the German economic footprint there. The private sector has long recognised this. Exporting the Hanover Trade Fair concept to Mexico is a good example. German (and especially Mexican) policymakers need to follow suit and bolster these partnerships with a high-ranking political presence – as well as with specific economic and political cooperation projects for strengthening foreign trade relations.

At the multilateral level, joint efforts on migration by Germany, the EU, Mexico and Central America would be necessary to contain migration flows and to mitigate the region’s security problems. First and foremost, this means combating the causes of migration in the countries of Central America (economic development, reducing violence and local crime).

Hans-Hartwig Blomeier heads the KAS Office in Mexico.

Last update: July 19th, 2021

MEXICO

  • Population: 128,932,753
  • Capital: Mexico City
  • Interest: The Security and Stability of Europe, its Neighbourhood and other Regions of the World
  • Region: Latin America
  • Potential partner countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Mexico, Panama

04 — The region

Latin America

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PERU

Peru is an exception in Latin America in terms of its enormous wealth of resources and biodiversity. The country has three large landscape zones: the coast, most of which is covered by desert, the Andes and the jungle region. According to the World Resource Institute, Peru is one of only eight megadiverse countries in the world, possessing 84 of the 104 existing life zones. 76 percent of the country is occupied by rainforest, which means that the country has the largest share of the Amazon rainforest after Brazil.

  • Population: 32,971,854
  • Capital: Lima
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MEXICO

In connection with organised crime, drug trafficking, and the penetration of the state by criminal groups, Mexico – a regional leader and member of the G20 – is facing major challenges that affect both internal and regional security. In view of the cross-border effects of organised crime in Mexico, which extend far beyond the American continent, migration from Central America and other regions of the world through Mexico towards the USA, the significant economic potential as a production location with a well-qualified workforce and privileged access to the US market via the North American Free-Trade Area, Mexico is of great importance for the stability of the region.

  • Population: 128,932,753
  • Capital: Mexico City
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COLOMBIA

According to official data from the Colombian migration authorities, approximately 1.8 million of the more than 4 million Venezuelan migrants are currently in Colombia. According to estimates by the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the flow of migrants could increase to 3 million by the end of 2020, not including “transit migrants” or commuters.

  • Population: 50,882,891
  • Capital: Bogota
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URUGUAY

In comparison to other Latin American countries and despite its modest size, Uruguay serves as a model with its impressive political and socio-economic status. In a region that is not always stable, the country can look back on a long democratic-republican tradition with functioning institutions and a diverse media landscape.

  • Population: 3,473,730
  • Capital: Montevideo
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BRAZIL

Brazil is the largest economy in Latin America and, with a GDP of approximately 2 trillion US dollars is one of the most important emerging markets in the world. The country has a domestic market of 210 million inhabitants and is rich in natural resources.

  • Population: 212,559,417
  • Capital: Brasilia
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