U.S. census data released last week showed that Mexico’s trade with the United States rose to $97.4 billion for the first two months of the year — enabling it to leapfrog ahead of Canada ($92.4 billion) and China ($90.4 billion).
“The fact that this surprises a lot of people is a reflection of the ignorance in the United States about this theme,” said Luis de la Calle, a former undersecretary of the economy here. “Mexico is a very important market for the United States, and it’s going to become the biggest market for the United States in the world.”
It’s not quite there yet. For the first two months of the year, Mexico was the second-biggest export market for the United States, trailing Canada $45.8 billion to $42.1 billion. Exports to America’s southern neighbor were flat compared with the same period in 2018.
Much of the U.S.-Mexico commerce involves multinational firms that send products back and forth across the border as part of a giant, integrated manufacturing process that has flourished since the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect in 1994.
“For the rest of the world, the U.S. is a market — that’s true for China, Korea, et cetera,” De la Calle said. “With Mexico and Canada and the United States, we trade in order to produce things together.”