U.S.-Mexico: High stakes, calmer tones.

This morning, all eyes are on Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral in Westminster Abbey, with more than 70 heads of state in attendance to pay their respects. For live coverage from London, you can click here.

As we head into the Fall, higher-than-expected inflation continues here at home despite declining gas prices, and, last Friday, Wall Street closed out one of its worst weeks of 2022. Across the Atlantic, Russia’s retreat in northeast Ukraine has produced wary optimism amongst allies.   

In our own hemisphere, the focus in the US-Mexico relationship has revolved around energy and the economy. On September 16th, Mexico celebrated its Independence Day. It had been anticipated that President Andrés Manuel López Obrador would defend his nationalistic energy position at the celebration’s traditional military parade, although he appears to have toned down his message in the wake of recent bilateral talks. 

Seven days ago, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled with a delegation to Mexico City for the second annual US-Mexico High-Level Economic Dialogue, which was relaunched by the Biden administration in September 2021. During the visit, the two governments projected an unexpectedly optimistic tone in relation to the USMCA energy dispute.

The USMCA complaint— filed in July by the US and Canada— alleges that Mexico’s energy policy has favored state-run CFE and PEMEX. All parties have expressed a desire to reach a resolution during the consultation period, which lasts 75 days. This period can be modified by mutual agreement, which appears likely. 

If the countries fail to come to an agreement during the consultation, the US and Canada could request a dispute settlement panel, which must issue recommendations within 150 days. If this occurs, experts expect a panel to favor the US and Canada

Last week in Mexico City, the Biden administration focused the High Level Economic Dialogue on leveraging US legislation passed in the last month. The CHIPS and Science Act will invest $50 billion in semiconductor and chip manufacturing. Additionally, the Inflation Reduction Act will bolster nearly $400 billion in green technology. 

Billions in new investment provide an enormous opportunity for North America to reconfigure supply chains and chip away at Asia’s advantage in semiconductors and electric car batteries. A renewed push for nearshoring would also give Mexico a chance to court investors who have wavered over López Obrador’s nationalistic policies. The Inter-American Development Bank previously estimated nearshoring with Mexico could add $35 billion a year in exports. 

On security, Mexico continues to experience high levels of cartel violence, including recent attacks on convenience stores. While López Obrador campaigned on “hugs, not bullets”, his policies have taken a more militarized approach. Additionally, the administration has controversially expanded the budget of the Armed Forces. 

Recently, Mexico’s lower Chamber of Deputies voted to expand the Mexican army’s street presence to address violence until 2028. And earlier this month, the Chamber of Deputies passed a bill that put the National Guard under army control. Security analysts have expressed concern that moves to militarize public security fail to address structural issues within the justice system. 

On immigration, the number of migrants arriving at the U.S. southern border, particularly from Venezuela, has remained high, amid political and economic hardship in Latin America. The Biden administration has reportedly asked Mexico and Panama to take back Venezuelan migrants under the Title 42 expulsion policy, which remains in place due to litigation. 

As the midterms approach, it is no surprise that immigration is making national headlines. Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis have transported arriving migrants to cities such as Washington DC, New York City, and Martha’s Vineyard. The two governors’ actions have placed the issue front and center, fueling commentary about their own national aspirations

Through the end of 2022, the US and Mexico will continue to engage on security, trade, and immigration. Officials will meet next month in Washington DC for the U.S.-Mexico High-Level Security Dialogue.  And the next North American Leaders’ Summit is scheduled to take place this December in Mexico City

Across Latin America, countries are also facing political strains amid persistent high inflation and exacerbated inequality. Over the past year and a half, Chile, Peru, and Colombia have elected leftist heads of state. On October 2, the first round of Brazil’s elections will pit President Jair Bolsonaro against former President Lula da Silva.  

Here at White & Case Mexico City, we’ll be closely monitoring evolving developments in-country to offer our clients the best insights and legal representation. You can find my previous newsletters on the bilateral relationship here.  

Lasty, I’d like to congratulate my colleagues who received top-tier rankings by Chambers & Partners for their work across Latin America in international arbitration, project finance, and public law. 

As always, I hope you will stay in touch and reach out or follow me on FacebookTwitter, or LinkedIn


Antonio Garza