Former Ambassador Talks Mexican Immigration and Trade with Students


By: Katina Rentas Negrón, Latin America Intern, Office of Global Perspectives and International Initiatives, UCF  

How much is trade between the U.S. and Mexico worth? According to former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Earl Anthony Wayne (2011-2015), the answer is “over one million dollars’ worth of goods and services. Every minute.”

Trade was one of the many topics Wayne presented during a UCF forum on Tuesday, Oct. 1. Mexico, Wayne said, is “one of the most underappreciated relationships of the United States.” He also addressed other prominent challenges that the United States faces with Mexico like migration, border control and the illicit drug trade.

The forum, hosted by the Office of Global Perspectives and International Initiatives, presented students the chance to learn from a career diplomat. Wayne is also a former ambassador to Argentina (2006-2009) and deputy ambassador to Afghanistan (2009-2011). Currently, Wayne serves as the public policy fellow and co-chair of the Mexico Institute’s Board at the Wilson Center.

Wayne described the intertwined nature of the U.S.-Mexico trading relationship. Mexico is America’s second largest export market, and in 2019, Mexico became America’s largest trading partner, outstripping Canada and China. As the U.S. Congress considers whether to approve a new trade agreement with Mexico, Wayne stressed the importance of this trade relationship.

During an information-packed forum, Wayne stated how migration is the most urgent problem for U.S.-Mexico cooperation. The lack of long-term strategy continues to build more tension between the two countries. Mexico and the United States, he underscored, need to improve competitiveness, rebuild their confidence and learn how to deal with migrants more humanely.

Regarding migration issues, Wayne shared that the number of undocumented Mexican immigrants in the U.S. has been declining since 2007. He juxtaposed that with the number of Central American immigrants into the U.S., which has increased. While Mexico condemns U.S. border policies, Wayne stated that Mexico lacks a strong migration policy, which controls how many Central Americans are entering its borders. In order to increase security and reduce border-violence, Wayne said efforts must come from both countries given they both contribute to the problem.

Concluding his presentation by discussing the illicit drug trade, Wayne stated, “There are two sides to drug problems: there is the demand side and there is the supply side.” He stressed that there is a need for policies from both countries that tackle the demand and supply of illicit drugs, including rehabilitation programs and enhanced law enforcement cooperation.

After the lecture, Wayne met with many students and, over cookies and coffee, discussed his viewpoints, the role of a career diplomat and how students can get involved.

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