• Comprehensive
  • Analytical
  • Engaging


The governments of Mexico and the United States may improve their relationship despite a long history of unease, including armed conflicts in the 1800s and early 1900s. Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Shannon K. O’Neil believes that the 1994 implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) among Canada, Mexico and the United States economically strengthened all three countries and improved US-Mexico ties. Governmental reforms under former Mexican president Vicente Fox and judicial reforms still pending from former president Felipe Calderón augur well for Mexico’s future. Greater economic and social integration of Mexico and the US will bring the two countries closer. O’Neil’s scholarly discussion of the US-Mexico relationship is sufficiently comprehensive for analytical readers, yet lively enough to engage a broader audience. getAbstract recommends this detailed, stereotype-busting description of modern Mexico and its rising middle class to students, policy makers, investors, and those interested in immigration and related issues.


Diplomatic Distance, Economic Embrace

In the 19th century and early 20th century, the United States and Mexico went to war, “nearly always to the detriment of Mexico.” The countries fought over what would become Texas; Mexicans view its secession as “radical American immigrants threatening national sovereignty,” and “a case of might triumphing over right.”

By the mid-20th century, US relations with Mexico entered an era of neutrality and neglect as American preoccupation with Russia intensified during the Cold War. US policy treated its neighbor to the south as “just one of many sources of migrants, a modest energy source, a peripheral world power and a Cold War backwater.” Mexico’s historically dominant political party, the PRI, stoked popular suspicion of exploitative “Yankee imperialism.” The PRI brought political stability to Mexico by “antidemocratic and corrupt means,” yet the US never criticized the party or Mexico’s government.

As corporate America expanded into Mexico, US companies supported the Mexican government more than they resisted it. For example, when Mexico struggled to make bond payments during its 1980s debt crisis, US banks pushed the International...

About the Author

Shannon K. O’Neil is a Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow for Latin American studies.

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