Mexico and the United States are more than neighbors. Increasingly interdependent, the two countries share a border of almost 2,000 miles, which has grown in importance for trade, transit, and security.

Mexico is the U.S.'s third largest trading partner and second market for exports, while the United States represents more than 75 percent of Mexico's trade. More than nine percent of the U.S. population is of Mexican descent, including some three percent born in Mexico, while ten percent of Mexico's population lives in the United States. There is hardly a person in Mexico who does not know someone in the United States or an American who does not know someone from Mexico.

This growing interdependence also comes with numerous common challenges. Controversial issues, such as trade, migration, development, and security need original thinking and open dialogue. The Mexico Institute has sought to promote this by undertaking several innovative projects to promote research, mutual understanding, and public debate. One such effort is the U.S.-Mexico Congressional Initiative, launched in 2007.

During the year, as part of this initiative, we took two study tours to Mexico. One involved five Members of Congress and one senior adviser to the Speaker of the House. Participants included Reps. Howard Berman (D-CA), Lois Capps (D-CA), Steve King (R-IA), Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX), and Zoe Lofgren. The other tour involved six staffers from the Senate and House of Representatives from both parties. In both cases, participants met with senior government officials, members of the Mexican Congress, and leading analysts, scholars, and journalists.

The Institute has also produced a publication, The United States and Mexico: More Than Neighbors, which is intended as a briefing document for Members of Congress and their staff who travel to, and work on issues related to, Mexico. The Institute expects to hold a series of briefings on Capitol Hill in 2008 and to hold a second (and possibly third) study tour for Members during the year.

With the growing number of challenges facing our countries and the important role the U.S. Congress plays in addressing them, this Initiative will remain a priority for the Mexico Institute.