Distinguished Alumni Award Details


Mexico makes a motion


Mexico’s participation in G-20 summits to date has largely failed to help the country solve some of its most pressing policy concerns. Despite repeated attempts to procure international support through projects like the Merida Initiative, the country continues to fight an uphill battle against organized crime while dealing with the possibility of an approaching flu pandemic and the ongoing effects of the financial crisis.

According to a September 2, 2009 article from La Jornada, one of Mexico’s most important left-leaning newspapers, the peso devalued 2 percent against the dollar in just one day. This quick depreciation is indicative of the financial volatility currently affecting the country. One of Mexico’s most important conservative news sources, Milenio, notes that the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), when compared with last year, was down 10.3 percent during the second trimester of 2009.

Mexican President Felipe Calderón argues that the swine flu threat has played a major role in the country’s decreased GDP. Meanwhile, the government has deployed the federal army to fight a very complicated war against drug cartels across all regions of the country.

These realities are important for the United States to consider, because at any given time, they’re one drop away from spilling over the border. And they beg the question: If Mexico’s participation in G-20 summits has been generally ineffective in helping the country to address their most urgent economic policy issues, then why is Mexico a G-20 member country in the first place?

Dr. Michael Brenner is a professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA) and an international affairs expert. He reminds us that the “G-20 is not an organization, it’s a movable meeting…more of a political forum.” As such, it lacks formal accountability structures that could enforce compliance with G-20 decisions.

A lot has changed in the past few decades, and Brenner argues that “Mexico and other countries in the same position would like intergovernmental oversight of the processes of globalization, including investment patterns, trade distortions and the implementation of international agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO) or the policies and pressures from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).” All of these oversight issues are related to Mexico’s most important policy concerns.

Brenner also defines the G-20 Summit as an opportunity for Mexico to “make its case that the way globalization has been unfolding has been detrimental to its interests. Mexico can speak to nineteen other countries and highlight the negative effects of globalization in order to amend the international agenda.”

“And now,” Brenner says, “Mexico, and a number of other Newly Industrialized Countries (NIC), have a powerful diplomatic argument. They can use the financial crisis to slam the unfettered free market model generally – which is the model that underlies and justifies the policies of the World Bank, the IMF, and the United States. More than ever, Mexico can really call attention to the mistaken notion that unregulated, free markets are going to generate wealth for all and that the benefits are going to outweigh the costs.”

Perhaps Mexico won’t explicitly look for answers to their biggest policy problems at the Pittsburgh G-20 Summit. What if Mexico were to recognize, instead, that the G-20 is an opportunity to make a motion for change with some of the wealthiest nations in the world? Brenner argues that Mexico’s participation with the G-20 “is an effort to make a political point so that they will have more of an impact on policy decisions that affect them in the United States and elsewhere. They want more say. It’s not a neutral system. It has built-in flaws and contradictions.” And Mexico wants the world, and perhaps more specifically, the United States, to know.

One factor that will determine the decibel level of Mexico’s advocacy is the extent of coverage that international media outlets devote to the issues that Mexico cares about most. So let’s watch, read and listen as Mexico moves to put its issues on the table and motions for international awareness (with the hope that maybe the world will get to the “action” part of the equation later).

Christine Waller is a first-year student majoring in Public and International Affairs with a concentration in Global Political Economy. 

Graduate School of Public and International Affairs
3601 Wesley W. Posvar Hall, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260