“The principal task of Ambassador Carlos Sada Solana should not be to respond in a direct manner, to the anti-Mexican discourse that is rampant during this electoral period, but rather to address this rhetoric in a strategic fashion.”

Mexico has named their new ambassador to the United States, Carlos Manuel Sada Solana. The priority of the new ambassador is clear: to represent Mexico in a more constructive and positive manner, especially to the American people and the U.S. Congress, and to identify the Representatives and Senators that can have an influence on shaping such a positive image. This will be important not only in the context of this year’s presidential election, but also for the long-term health of the bilateral relationship.

The principal task of Ambassador Carlos Sada Solana should not be,to respond in a direct manner to the current anti-Mexico discourse that is rampant during this electoral period, but rather to address this rhetoric in a strategic fashion. The importance of Mexico’s relationship with the United States should be emphasized along with the significant achievements that Mexico has had in recent years. This includes American endorsement of the reforms, the creation of the High Level Economic Dialogue (HLED or DEAN in Spanish), the development of intelligence cooperation, as well as bilateral efforts in energy, climate change, organized crime, and migration.

It is fundamental to recognize that what we are witnessing in the U.S. today is more than just anti-Mexican rhetoric; it is isolationist political discourse that will hurt the interests of both countries. Mexico is not just an exporter of products to the United States. Mexico is also a partner in production. On average, about forty percent of the total value of Mexican exports to the U.S. originates in the United States, i.e. components, technology, and material goods. Disrupting the flow of Mexican goods to the United States will in reality, harm American producers.

We believe that there are five issues that should be prioritized in the new agenda for the Ambassador:

  1. Emphasize joint competiveness. The benefits of the HLED and the steadily increasing integration of North America’s manufacturing production systems are worth highlighting. Foreign investment into Mexico supports production throughout the region. Improvements in efficiency, competitiveness and productivity in Mexico improve the competitiveness of all three countries. The recent drop in energy prices in Mexico is a key example: by lowering energy costs, the competitiveness of the integrated U.S.-Mexico production platform has been improved.
     
  2. Talk about a smart border, not a closed border. It is critical to position a discourse that pushes aside the idea of “closed borders” (to prevent the entry of goods and persons) and rather emphasize language that supports solutions for “smart borders.” A smart border is one that serves as a filter. It will be an effective barrier to crime (in all honesty, we will never have a completely hermetic border), and a channel that allows fast and efficient flows for legal trade and investment. The only way this can be achieved is working with and sharing information with the United States. A priority for the new Ambassador will be to find politicians, officials, and private sector stakeholders interested in changing the largely negative discourse concerning the border.
     
  3. Cooperate in energy and climate change mitigation. With the energy reform enacted in 2013, Mexico has become one of the world’s most attractive destinations for investment in energy including in oil, gas, and electricity. Opportunities in Mexico should be a basic element in the energy conversation. Likewise, energy and environmental regulation, and the mitigation of climate change should also be emphasized.  The trilateral talks between Mexico, Canada, and the United States are making progress but still lack public awareness and detail. Promoting a discourse in these areas would help reveal the breadth and depth of this relationship.
     
  4. Strengthen security collaboration. Instead of focusing the public discourse on Mexico and its public security failures, the new Ambassador should shed light on the achievements of bilateral cooperation. The Merida Initiative has built a security relationship between the two countries that would have been unimaginable a few years prior. Both countries should celebrate and emphasize this fact. In addition, it is urgent to think about the next steps for bilateral cooperation in this respect. The Merida Initiative’s resources are already low for the size of the challenge and a reduction would be a huge setback. Likewise, it must continue to fight against organized crime and illegal possession of weapons in Mexico. The fight against drugs should be transformed into a fight against what is truly behind the upsurge in violence in Mexico: impunity, corruption, and the lack of professionalization of judicial institutions.
     
  5. Migration through (not from) Mexico. The U.S.-Mexico border continues to be the main port of entry for undocumented migration, but not for Mexicans, rather Central Americans. In fact, in the first decade of the 2000s, 250,000 Mexicans migrated to the United States on average per year (net). However, recent years have seen net zero or even net negative migration from Mexico to the U.S. The migrant group that is growing comes from countries like El Salvador and Honduras who enter the United States through Mexico. Mexico and the United States are already collaborating on initiatives to control the flow. This is an opportunity to raise awareness among many politicians in Washington about the crucial role that Mexico plays in these efforts.

Before his appointment as ambassador, Sada Solana had been the Consul General of Los Angeles. Today, he is the successor to Miguel Basáñez as Ambassador to Mexico’s main trading partner, the United States. Sada Solana has extensive diplomatic experience with strategic cities in the trilateral relationship including Washington, New York, Chicago, and Toronto. 

Yet, despite Sada Solana’s extensive qualifications, nothing will prepare him adequately for the public relations battle during what has become the toughest period in the relationship between Mexico and the United States in decades.  His job will not be easy, but a positive agenda and the language of cooperation will be crucial ammunition to gain territory in his diplomatic campaign.

This article was originally published on the Mexico Institute's blog on Forbes.com.