Emerging Leaders Strengthen LA-Mexico Ties
May 23, 2018

In April, a special delegation of emerging leaders from the Pacific Council community traveled to Mexico City for discussions with government officials, civil society leaders, and more on strengthening the U.S.-Mexico relationship.

While negotiators continue NAFTA talks under tight deadlines and U.S. rhetoric on immigration strains U.S.-Mexico relations at the national level, the delegation focused on conversations that would help fortify cross-border ties. Conversations revealed that the Pacific Council is pushing on an open door in this respect: California is already leading the way toward an improved bilateral relationship.

According to Ambassador Carlos Sada, undersecretary for North America at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, California’s progressive immigration policies have a counterbalancing effect on the alternative perception that the border is an "area of total insecurity," he said.

Delegates, including young lawyers, entrepreneurs, engineers, and civil servants, met with officials at the Mexican Council on Foreign Relations (COMEXI), Mexico’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the National Conference of Governors of Mexico (CONAGO), the Mexican Congress of the Union, and the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. Topics covered in discussions included trade, Mexican subnational diplomacy, the 2018 presidential election, and the country’s culture convergence with California, in particular Los Angeles.

Jonathan Beutler, Nastasha Everheart, Angelov Farooq, Amie Kashon, Kareena Kirlew, and Darline Llopis weighed in with their top takeaways from this special delegation to CDMX.

Delegate Takeaways

Economics & Finance: Trade and NAFTA

  • While NAFTA renegotiations are a hot topic in Mexico, there seemed to be much optimism that—regardless of the renegotiations—the countries would in many ways continue with much of their trade. Each country is vital to the other’s survival, and they are intertwined not only economically but also through their populations. – Darline Llopis
  • The United States and Mexico are on a path toward increased engagement regardless of how NAFTA renegotiations or elections in Mexico pan out. Diplomats on both side of the national dialogue stressed this point. – Nastasha Everheart
  • Mexico continues to defy the electronic payment conversion seen in other countries and continues to rely heavily on cash payments. This has led many companies to tweak their business models to attract Mexican consumers and provide alternative payment methods to online credit card payment. – Darline Llopis

Politics and Governance: The 2018 Presidential Election

  • The Mexican political system is one that has a unique character that presents challenges not only for the Mexican people, but for the United States and North America. From the complexity of its political parties to the continued struggle against the perception and reality of corruption, there are issues in Mexico’s political structure that can only be handled with awareness, creativity, and specificity. – Kareena Kirlew
  • Despite Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s populist approach, the U.S.-Mexico relationship has not been weaponized in this election to the degree experts predicted it would. – Nastasha Everheart
  • The upcoming election will be transformative for Mexico regardless of the candidate elected. While experts disagreed on what influence each of the candidates might have on institutions in the country, all stressed how weighty the July 1 elections would be and emphasized the strength of the executive branch. – Amie Kashon

Culture and Community Ties between Mexico and California 

  • In the United States especially, we see a certain sense of reluctance in terms of engaging with international partners, especially some of those in our own hemisphere. This trip has highlighted the importance of cultivating a strong relationship with our neighbors, especially here in Mexico. If we don’t have a strong relationship there’s really no way for us to work in a collaborative way on important issues. The interests of key stakeholders here in Mexico City, whether it be in the business community or government, are aligned and very similar to the interests and objectives of the business community and government in the United States. It is in everybody’s interest to work together. – Jonathan Beutler
  • I came away with much more knowledge about Mexico’s role as a large, deeply cultured country. Geography has much to do with the nature of the caravans that travel annually through the country (gleaned via our visit to the U.S. Embassy). Geography also has much to do with the disparity between wealth and poverty, as well as the stratification and consolidation of crime and cartels at the northern and southern borders of the country. – Kareena Kirlew

  • There are extraordinary opportunities to have more strategic relationships to expand trade that would be mutually constructive. There are opportunities to cultivate more workforce cooperation across the two regions—and really the mega-region—from a Southern California/Mexi-Cali/Baja California perspective. There are extraordinary opportunities to expand more investment and infrastructure so that we can establish more pathways between the respective areas. – Angelov Farooq
  • American football’s popularity is quite strong in Mexico and continues to grow despite the growing tensions between the two countries. It will be interesting to see if Mexico gets their own NFL team in the next decade. – Darline Llopis
  • Despite tense rhetoric at the federal level, there is a lot of optimism for the binational relationship and the institutional and personal ties that inextricably link Mexico and California—from tech businesses in CDMX looking to Silicon Beach and Silicon Valley for support to major California universities maintaining offices and growing educational exchanges. – Amie Kashon

Some meetings resulted in the opportunity to engage in Mexico-California relations beyond the tenure of the trip, such as an invitation from the National Conference of Governors of Mexico to participate in a future meeting between CONAGO and the U.S. National Governor’s Association. Delegates also left Mexico with a deeper desire to engage on issues related to the bilateral relationship. Stay tuned for more in-depth analysis and other Pacific Council content from the 2018 CDMX Emerging Leaders Delegation.

This trip was made possible by our Pay It Forward donors whose generous contributions help the Pacific Council bring new, diverse voices into our international affairs work.


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