ABC News/ Univision, 10/4/2012

On the sidelines of the first U.S.-Mexico border trade conference held last week in Arizona, a group stared at a map of the United States. The 50 states were colored various shades of blue. The darker the state was, the more it exported to Mexico. As expected, California, Arizona and Texas were dark blue but so were Nebraska, Michigan and Wisconsin. The map showed what many on the border have known for awhile: Mexico is vital to the U.S. economy.

A buzz is developing around the strength of Mexico's growing middle class and what it could mean for U.S. businesspeople and politicians in the border region. But there is also frustration that when it comes to Mexico, the United States -- particularly lawmakers in Washington, D.C. -- continue to focus almost exclusively on security, drugs and illegal immigration.

Economists Chris Wilson and Erik Lee point out that "the United States and Mexico do not just sell goods to one another, they actually work together to manufacture them."