Monday, March 7, 2011

Open to Interpretation

In yet another illustration of the differences between diplomacy and basketball, two knowledgeable observers, Andrew Selee and Andres Oppenheimer, come away with vastly different opinions of whether Calderón's trip to Washington was a success. Selee:
President Calderon’s trip to Washington was, by all accounts, an outstanding success. The meeting with President Obama was challenging, but both sides saw it as extremely positive and an opportunity to get the tone of the relationship on track. The breakthrough on trucking was particularly significant and removes an important irritant in the bilateral relationship. President Calderon’s speech at a Wilson Center/Council of the Americas public forum was very well received, with frequent applause and two standing ovations.
And Oppenheimer:
I was dismayed by the joint Obama-Calderón press conference on March 3, where the Mexican president explicitly called for a “regional perspective” to take advantage of each country’s competitive advantages and “turn North America in its entirety into the most competitive region of the world.” Obama sidestepped the idea, and focused on the U.S.-Mexico issues of the day.
The Obama administration urgently needs to deepen economic integration with Mexico, and with the rest of Latin America, if it is serious about making the U.S. economy more competitive and doubling U.S. exports within the next five years.
China is forming a mighty trade bloc with the 10-member Association of East Asian countries. The European Union has expanded into a 27-country market. Can the United States go it alone? It can’t, but the Obama administration and Congress have yet to realize it.
Much of Oppenheimer's criticism is generalized rather than specific, and based on the fact that as a proportion of the total activity in a given economic realm (i.e. exports), intra-continental trade is dropping. This strikes me as an odd objection to have, given the negative impact we saw in 2009 of Mexico's overwhelming reliance on the US as an export market. A bit more diversity would amount to a healthy hedge. It also doesn't mean that the overall level of trade between the two nations goes down. If Mexican exports with the US go from $1 billion to $2 billion in a year, and exports with the rest of the world go from $100 million to $1 billion over the same period, than the US share will decline, but that shouldn't be cause for upset, because exports to the US doubled.

No comments: