Looking back on this past year, there is a lot to reflect on. I have been so blessed to be part of White & Case in Mexico City. It is an honor to work with such extraordinary lawyers and friends and to continue the firm’s long history of providing globally recognized legal counsel to our clients.
Since 2016, I’ve focused my end-of-year newsletters on uncertainty around the world. Last year, I continued this theme, writing that a global crisis could erupt at any moment. I wrote that “2020 will be nothing short of historic.” Sadly, this has borne out to be true.
We are living through a historic pandemic, racial justice movement, economic collapse, and political tumult.
Any of these forces would be enough to shake our foundations. Combined, they are reshaping our world.
There is a lot to mourn this year. More than 1.5 million people around their world have lost their lives to COVID-19. Hundreds of millions more have lost their livelihoods.
There are no upsides to these tragedies. But there are lessons.
It’s clear, more than ever, just how dependent we are on one another. We depend on our first responders, our community members, and on our global supply chains to deliver products from around the world. This isn’t new, but it has rarely been laid bare across so many facets of our lives.
We have also seen how small things can shake our world. From a tiny virus to a cell phone video, we quickly transmit things to one another around the world. The focus is so often on macro trends, but this year is a reminder that singular incidents and miniscule things can spark enormous change.
This year also reminded us that our country is still far from eradicating systemic racism. It will take more than any one organization, protest, or movement. Yet, they each move us another step toward justice.
In 2021, we’ll chart a new course, but face many of the same challenges.
On January 20, 2021, a new administration will assume leadership in Washington, DC. The Biden administration has promised to make broad changes, including in addressing COVID-19, racial justice, foreign policy, and on immigration issues. This includes a 100 million vaccines plan for the first 100 days in office, which will be possible due to a warp-speed vaccine development and approval process.
These COVID-19 vaccines will push our economies back toward normality. Over the coming year, global economic growth is projected to rebound, as major economies reopen and more people get back to work. However, this economic recovery will be uneven across countries, given the differences in how quickly populations can get vaccinated and the roles that each government takes in pushing forward its economy.
Global supply chains is one area where there is a far more optimistic outlook today than just a few months ago. For months it seemed that we were watching the death of supply chains. But trade networks are alive and well, and part of the solution to our economic recovery. Despite the pandemic, our countries and economies are likely to remain integrated and dependent on one another well into the future.
Yet, closer to home, pre-COVID-19 challenges are still lingering and waiting to be addressed.
In Mexico, the national economy is improving, but the recovery remains shaky. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has continued to focus on maintaining austerity during the pandemic, which could slow down a full economic come-back. In the next few weeks, one important news item to watch will be what happens on the proposed outsourcing reform, which would block companies from subcontracting jobs to third party firms.
In the energy sector, the López Obrador administration has continued its policies that favor Pemex and CFE—the state owned oil and electricity companies—over private companies. So far, Mexican courts have defended the private companies that invested under the 2013 energy reform’s legal framework. However, this back and forth could intensify in the future, as López Obrador has previously discussed seeking constitutional reforms to roll back the country’s energy reform.
Mexico’s violence levels also remain stubbornly high, with the first half of 2020 breaking the country’s record for the national homicide rate. Yet this rate leaves out many people who simply disappeared, which is estimated at around 79,000 people. As a point of comparison, The Washington Post notes that this number is more than the total disappeared in Guatemala, Chile, and Argentina during these countries’ Dirty Wars.
Recent investigations have also shown that corruption has permeated some of the highest levels of Mexico’s federal government. Multiple high-ranking officials in the Enrique Peña Nieto administration have been accused of corruption, including Mexico’s former Defense Minister, General Salvador Cienfuegos, who was arrested in Los Angeles on October 15, 2020 on drug trafficking charges. Some corruption investigations have even pointed toward Former President Enrique Peña Nieto himself.
U.S.-Mexico relations will start the year on a shaky foot. López Obrador has yet to congratulate Biden on his presidency, although it seems that he will next week, after the election’s official certification.
This delay would be a minor blip in the bilateral relationship. However, the overall bilateral tone has cooled after General Cienfuegos’ arrest. It appears that the level of binational engagement in the coming year will largely depend on whether López Obrador has any interest in increasing or even continuing cooperation.
Despite these obstacles, our binational relationship continues to be just as important as ever. The region’s biggest challenges–migration, security, climate change, or COVID-19–do not stop at our borders. As I have long believed, our two countries can both be stronger by working together.
As we look toward 2021, I want to close by wishing you all a Merry Christmas, happy holiday season, and a healthy and prosperous new year. May 2021 bring peace and joy to you and your loved ones.
Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Antonio Garza. The column first appeared on Ambassador Garza’s website. Click here to read the original. It appears in the Rio Grande Guardian with the author’s permission.
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