12/06/2012 11:28 am ET Updated Feb 05, 2013

What Should the Top Priority Be for U.S.-Mexican Relations?

On Dec. 1, Enrique Peña Nieto was inaugurated as Mexico's president. With a new leader taking the reins in Mexico and Barack Obama's reelection the United States, what should the two leaders focus on in terms of bilateral ties? Americas Society/Council of the Americas asked nine prominent experts to share what they consider top priorities. Responses ranged from expanding trade through the Trans-Pacific Partnership to U.S. immigration reform.

My response was as follows:

"Should be" and "will be" have frequently been two very different things in the U.S.-Mexico bilateral relationship. The coming year offers the opportunity for a new approach.

For their own domestic purposes and in the wake of their respective elections, the United States should quickly tackle immigration reform while Mexico should liberalize its energy sector.

In terms of the bilateral relationship, however, both governments (including their legislatures) should recognize the nature of economic integration that has occurred since NAFTA, making our two economies virtually inseparable, along with Canada, as a joint production platform. This new reality should both be celebrated and also enhanced. Joint approaches within the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations can be a means to achieve NAFTA 2.0. If coupled with a North American approach to potential trade negotiations with the EU, North American economic integration can advance to a point unthinkable even a few short years ago. With continued economic and commercial pressure from China, India, and elsewhere, this approach will support the long-term economic well-being of the United States and North America more broadly.

A joint economic agenda is now more achievable than before. The Hispanic community in the United States has found its voice politically, manufacturing is returning to the United States due to lower prices for natural gas, and, despite ongoing concerns about violence and the drugs trade, Mexico is doing well enough economically to entice investors back from China. Now is perhaps the best opportunity in recent memory to intensify economic collaboration. It should be the top bilateral priority.

Read all of the perspectives here.