International Policy Digest

Politics /28 Oct 2020
10.28.20

Why Texas Should Lead the U.S.-Mexico Relationship

Texas has long enjoyed a permanent status in the American psyche. From its cultural significance to its political importance, Texas is in many ways emblematic of the American experience. As an economic powerhouse, Texas has contributed to America’s role as a major energy producer and international trade champion. In 2019, Texas totaled nearly $1.9 trillion in economic output, rivaling countries like Brazil in GDP.

In large part, the size of Texas’ economy depends on the deep links the state has with its sovereign neighbor. Mexico and Texas share a 1,254-mile border and a centuries-old historic and cultural relationship. Mexico remains Texas’ largest trading partner and both markets are extremely reliant on one another. Texas exports around $109.7 billion in goods to Mexico, nearly half of which are from small and medium-sized Texan businesses.

More than economic dependence, trade between the two represents the strength of Texan families. A 2018 report found that nearly $4.3 billion in remittances are sent to Mexico from nearly 1 million Texans looking to help their families on the other side of the border. These deep cultural and economic ties drive why Tex-Mex culture has never been stronger. Tex-Mex music and food have been exported around the world and in Mexico, has strengthened the affinity and interconnectedness between the two countries.

The degree to which the Texas-Mexico relationship will affect national politics is already evident. Economic and political uncertainty with Mexico under the Trump administration have hurt Texan businesses. Humanitarian crises at the border have made Texas the forefront of immigration policy and Texans have made it clear that they are ready to lead. In the context of the 2020 presidential election, Texas has been a historically conservative state. Today, however, Texas is turning purple and is positioned to take an even stronger role in Washington. In this new political reality, Texas will have an outsized role in leading the conversation around issues like hemispheric trade, energy, and supply chain development.

The impetus to drive this change is not only evident at the presidential level. In congressional races across the state, especially in those near the border, the U.S.-Mexico relationship is alive and well. Take Democratic candidate Ricardo De La Fuente, who is running for Texas’ 27th Congressional District, currently held by a Republican.

It is difficult not to see how Mr. De La Fuente’s success in Texas is representative of the Mexican American story. His popularity in the polls and his nomination to the Democratic ticket don’t just demonstrate the representation that Texans are demanding, but the interests that they have in mind. It seems clear to the voters that a vote for Mr. De La Fuente is a vote for a restoration of economic certainty with their southern neighbor in a candidate that exemplifies its importance.