Mexico And U.S. Agree To Work On Supply Chains, Migration

The United States and Mexico held the High-Level Economic Dialogue (HLED) on Thursday, September 9th, for the first time since 2015. The two countries agreed to improve supply chains by creating bilateral working groups as well as to advance social programs to deal with the migration issue. HLED was relaunched this year to discuss the four central pillars: Building Back Together, Promoting Sustainable Economic and Social Development in Southern Mexico and Central America, Securing the Tools for Future Prosperity, and Investing in Our People. These issues were brought into the discussion following the effects of the pandemic and unstable economic conditions.

The incentive for the talks was based on the need to find solutions to a number of controversial issues that have always been the drivers of the U.S.-Mexico political and economic relationships and, most importantly, have affected the U.S. migration policies. The agreement to establish working groups to make the supply chain, especially for semiconductors, more competitive, reflects an attempt of U.S. firms to secure their dominant position amidst the ongoing U.S.-China technological competition over the production of semiconductors. According to the Atlantic Council, U.S.-led semiconductor sales and production now account for only 12% of the market, down from 37% in 1990. While President Biden’s plan is to provide incentives to American companies, his executive order also calls to “successfully engage allies and partners to strengthen supply chains jointly or in coordination.” Hence, Mexico’s move to “sit down with industries or companies and be able to detail the components of semiconductors” to finalize what parts would be manufactured in Mexico or the United States comes as the U.S. embarks on a mission to bring production lines to North America from other parts of the world.

However, the move to adjust supply chains was also triggered by the coronavirus pandemic that has undermined the global economy and caused damage to both countries. As Vice President Harris noted in her opening remarks, the increased risk of climate change and cyberattacks that have posed risks to supply chains require a unified response from the United States and Mexico.

Another outcome of the High-Level Economic Dialogue was an agreement to collaborate on the Sembrando Vida (Sowing Life) tree-planting employment program as well as the Youths Building the Future. These programs are meant to create jobs for 18-29 year-olds with the aim of offering alternatives to migration. U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said that “This dialogue drives improved job creation, global competitiveness and reductions in poverty and inequalities, and that is to the benefit of U.S. citizens and Mexican citizens alike.” The cooperation falls under “Promoting Sustainable Economic and Social Development in Southern Mexico and Central America” which is the second pillar of the HLED. The programs are supposed to be conducted in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, as President López Obrador has been persistently lobbying the U.S. government to support this expansion.

As the most persistent issue in U.S. immigration politics, the method for regulating the flow of immigrants on its southern border has been a definitive measurement of the incumbent’s political attitudes. Since Joe Biden assumed office in January 2021, the decision to stop the harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric so widely present under President Trump was accepted. However, the administration is still determined to impose direct and indirect regulations to cut down the number of immigrants and asylum seekers at the border. The decision to reactivate the HLED summit was already a significant step for the administration to show their willingness to cooperate considering the precious suspension of the forum following President Donald Trump’s accusations of Mexico for sending “criminals over the border.”

Despite the attempts to move away from Trump’s legacy, the restoration of the “remain in Mexico” policy, formally known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program, means a continuation of human rights abuse and a direct threat to the asylum seekers at the border. The policy implies that asylum-seekers are supposed to stay in Mexico while their applications for asylum are pending. According to Mexico Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, the two governments never touched upon this issue during the summit even in the light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to revive the policy earlier in August. “The issue of MPP was not discussed in the dialogue,” Ebrard mentioned. “One of the pillars (of the talks) includes the border. And on that, several infrastructure projects on the border were raised.”

The discussion on cooperation in sustainable economic and social development in southern Mexico and Central America is by far the most valuable dialogue that marks the breakthrough from the Trump era. Nonetheless, not only is the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols policy being restarted, but there is a lack of communication between the government officials on this issue, which is preventing any progress in resolving the problem. Even with the increased cooperation on development programs in Mexico the number of potential migrants will not decrease given that a lot of people requesting asylum are from Haiti or anywhere outside the Central American region.

Human Rights First, an international human rights organization based in the U.S., documented approximately 1544 cases of killings, rapes, and kidnappings of migrants who have been left in Mexico because of the MPP restriction. These numbers should bring the leaders’ attention to the ongoing issue which should be discussed during the HLED summit based on its importance and urgency. Afterwards, cooperation in the post-Trump era will be crucial to uncover the issues that had been difficult to discuss earlier and implement immediate measures to allow for the safest conditions for those waiting at the border.

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