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Obama’s trip to Mexico hints at new balance of power

For generations, Mexico has been widely seen in the United States as a Third World neighbor, a source of cheap labor, illegal immigration and drugs.

But now, Mexico’s growing economic might is transforming relations between the
two countries, foreshadowing a new balance of power that was hinted at in
President Obama’s visit to the region Thursday and
yesterday.

Despite growing concerns among American officials that Mexico’s new president, Enrique Pena Nieto,
might scale back coordinated efforts to stop the flow of drugs over the border, Obama struck a highly deferential tone in his appearances in Mexico, in marked contrast to a visit four years ago. He said Thursday that it is “obviously up to the Mexican people to determine their security” and yesterday used his remarks to emphasize the United States’s responsibilities toward Mexico.

The new U.S. approach comes at a time of robust growth for the Mexican economy, which has fueled a middle-class expansion. After Canada, Mexico is the second-biggest importer of American-made goods – buying more than Britain, Germany and France or China and Japan combined – and that fact is central to one of the key pillars of Obama’s strategy for growing the
beleaguered U.S. economy: exports.

“U.S. exports to Mexico grew $51 billion in last two years, and that’s more than anywhere else in world,” said Jodi Bond, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s vice president for the Americas. “Mexico is helping us with a manufacturing resurgence, and U.S. companies are growing because the Mexican middle class is growing.”

Mexican pollster and political analyst Roy Campos
said that while it’s usually Mexico that has the heavier agenda in meetings with the United States, “this time it’s different.”

“It seems like Obama needs more from Mexico than the other way around,” Campos said.

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