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The rise of Mexico

01:29 AM
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This week the leaders of North America’s two most populous countries are due to meet for a neighborly chat in Washington. The re-elected Barack Obama and Mexico’s president-elect, Enrique Peña Nieto, have plenty to talk about: Mexico is changing in ways that will profoundly affect its big northern neighbor, and unless America rethinks its outdated picture of life across the border, both countries risk forgoing the benefits promised by Mexico’s rise.

The White House does not spend much time looking south. During six hours of televised campaign debates this year, neither Obama nor his vice president mentioned Mexico directly. That is extraordinary. One in 10 Mexican citizens lives in the United States. Include their American-born descendants and you have about 33 million people, about 10 percent of America’s population.

In terms of GDP, Mexico it ranks just ahead of South Korea. In 2011 the Mexican economy grew faster than Brazil’s — and will do so again in 2012. Yet Americans are gloomy about Mexico, and so is their government: three years ago Pentagon analysts warned that Mexico risked becoming a “failed state.” That is wildly wrong. In fact, Mexico’s economy and society are doing pretty well. Even the drug-related violence, concentrated in a few areas, looks as if it is starting to abate.


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