By Cecilia Yarza *
Being up to date on the bilateral agenda between Mexico and the United States is essential to achieve greater cooperation and finding synergies that benefit both nations. In an effort to better understand the narrative that the most important think tanks in both countries are publishing, the U.S.-Mexico Foundation (USMF) and the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness (IMCO) collaborate to monitor the publications related to the relationship between Mexico and the United States.
The monitoring think tank project helps to gain insight regarding the bilateral relationship between Mexico and the United States and its public perception. The project began on July 1, 2020 and the latest report was published on April 15, 2021. Every fortnight a report is produced on the publications made by 24 think tanks in Mexico and the United States. The composition of the 24 think tanks is made up by 15 centers in the US and 9 centers in Mexico. The USMF, as well as IMCO publish and distribute the corresponding report on their website and to their network. Similarly, a quarterly report is made with the progress and trends that emerged during the period.
This project has four main objectives. First, understand and identify the topics that the main think tanks publish about the relationship between Mexico and the United States to gauge the relevance of different topics. Second, identify relevant issues for the bilateral relationship that are not mentioned by the think tanks and analyze why. It is important to identify essential topics for the Mexico-United States relationship that do not receive the necessary attention or resources to address them. Third, identify which are the most active centers and the main subjects that they specialize in. Fourth, compare whether the topics covered by the think tanks are aligned with current issues or with the medium and long-term strategic agenda.
Throughout the life of the project there have been a total of 432 publications related to the bilateral relationship between Mexico and the United States. Think tanks in the U.S.fus are much more active than Mexican ones, 69% of the publications came from American think tanks, while 31% were published by Mexican think tanks. The think tanks with the most publications were: COMEXI (Consejo Mexicano de Asuntos Internacionales) with 21% of the total publications, focusing mainly on the bilateral relationship, democracy, and government. Followed by the Mexico Institute with 16% of the total publications, focusing on opportunities related to the relationship between the two nations, CSIS (Center for Strategic and International studies) with 14% of the total publications, with most publications about commerce and USMCA, Baker Institute with 12% of the total publications, addresses energy topics, AEI (American Enterprise Institute) with 9% and Brookings with 5% of total publications focus mainly on security and governance issues.
Around thirty major themes have been identified throughout the publications. The main ones are: Bilateral Relations, International Trade, Security and Governance, Migration, Economy, Energy and COVID-19. As expected, bilateral relations has been the most mentioned topic since the beginning of the project (18%), it focuses mainly on (non-commercial) opportunities to improve cooperation between both nations, such as agreements, the Biden & AMLO administrations, and foreign policy. Followed by international trade (15%), which mainly focuses on the USMCA and the commercial dynamism of the region. Third, security and governance (13%), refers to notes related to organized crime, money laundering, and water issues at the border. Fourth, migration (11%), this topic has picked up in recent months and focuses mainly on border issues, the southern border of Mexico and its relationship with the United States, as well as immigration policy. Other popular topics are, economy (7%), energy (7%) and COVID-19 (6%).
During this period, there have been some important findings. First, U.S. think tanks are addressing the bilateral relationship more often than Mexico-based institutions. This opens an opportunity for Mexican think tanks to explore the subject more in-depth and work to fill gaps in the narrative. Second, we have found that the issues addressed tend to be circumstantial, leaving aside other long-term issues of the bilateral agenda. We believe there is room for more in-depth analysis of important regional issues such as labor mobility and integration of the labor force for both countries, regional development of the border area, supply chains, bilateral institutional architecture, and agricultural industry. Addressing these issues would provide policy makers with key recommendations to follow to better face binational challenges and generate public policies that benefit both countries.