UC San Diego News Center


Mexico Moving Forward Symposium to Look at NAFTA ‘20 Years and Beyond’

UC President Janet Napolitano, Mexico’s top business leaders, policymakers, artists and scholars to speak

Photos by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

A recent one-day summit in Toluca, Mexico between President Barack Obama, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper helped mark the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), designed to eliminate cross-border duties and other barriers. The discussions at the summit included how NAFTA spurred a profound transformation of the economies and increased investment in the region.

NAFTA, its impact and its future will be the center of UC San Diego’s Mexico Moving Forward symposium, to be held from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. March 6. The symposium, hosted by the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IR/PS), will feature University of California President Janet Napolitano, UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla and IR/PS Dean Peter Cowhey, as well as experts from both sides of the border.

The event, free and open to the public, will bring policymakers and leaders of top think tanks together to discuss Mexico’s current reform agenda and opportunities to increase commercial linkages with Asia.

“I’m excited to be a part of UC San Diego’s Mexico Moving Forward symposium,” said UC President Janet Napolitano. “Our mutual interests in productive economic, cultural and educational interchanges between Mexico and California make this gathering particularly timely.”

The daylong symposium, to be held at the Sanford Consortium Auditorium, will feature welcome keynote remarks delivered by Antonio Ortiz-Mena, a member of Mexico’s NAFTA negotiation team who now serves as Head of Section for Economic Affairs at the Embassy of Mexico in the United States. The event also will include presentations by contemporary artists, writers and filmmakers, as well as performances.

“This symposium underscores UC San Diego’s commitment to our relationship with Mexico and our binational border region,” said Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “Our unique geographical position on the U.S.-Mexico border allows us to continue and increase engagement, collaboration and exchange with Mexican scholars and students.”

Many distinguished business leaders will attend the symposium to discuss Mexico’s continuing evolution. Trade and economic relations between Mexico and the U.S. are expected to continue to grow. After NAFTA, U.S. trade with Mexico has tripled, making Mexico the United States’ third largest exporter and making Mexico the United States No. 1 trading partner.

Speakers for Mexico Moving Forward include Luis Tellez, CEO, Mexican Stock Exchange; Arturo Sarukhan, former Mexican Ambassador to the U.S.; Carlos Elizondo, professor, Centro de Investigacion y Docencia Economicas (CIDE); Juan Gallardo, chairman of the Board for Organizacion CULTIBA; Exequiel Ezcurra, director, UC’s Institute for Mexico and the United States (UC MEXUS); Ignacio Duran, cinematographer; and more.

“Mexico Moving Forward is one of our signature events that highlights the depth of the school’s engagement with policy-relevant research on Mexico,” said IR/PS Dean Peter Cowhey. “Another area for significant new growth and change for Mexico is Asia­­ and how the economic ties between Mexico and Asia can be strengthened will be a major topic of discussion at the event.”

Melissa Floca, associate director of the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies, said Mexico Moving Forward highlights the transformational power of the extraordinary achievements of Mexicans committed to the future of Mexico.

“We are thrilled to welcome a distinguished group of speakers for wide-ranging discussion on Mexico’s future,” Floca said. “In addition, we will be live streaming a talk by Denise Dresser, professor and author of numerous publications on United States-Mexico relations.”

A frequent commentator on Mexican politics in the U.S., Mexican and Canadian media, Dresser will deliver a talk titled “Mexico under the ‘New’ PRI: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” at 8 p.m. on March 5 at a private event which will be streamed live at

In addition to the symposium, guests will be able to enjoy Mexican cuisine from 12:30 to 1:45 p.m. Following the closing session, attendees will have the opportunity to participate in a tasting of Mexican cuisine and selections from breweries and wineries in the Baja region.

Those unable to attend the March 6 symposium can watch the event live online as it will be streaming the entire day at In addition, people can interact on Twitter, tagging @USMEXUCSD and #usmexMMF.

The March 6 symposium features the following sessions:

Session I – Mexico Looking Back: NAFTA at 20, 9 a.m.

This session will look at all the changes in the last two decades in Mexico that have been brought about because of NAFTA. Moderated by UC San Diego political science professor Peter Smith, this first session features the policy makers who initially put NAFTA to work. The trade agreement officially began on Jan. 1, 1994.

Session II – Faces of Mexico: Arts and Culture, 11 a.m.

Panelists will discuss how the opening of the Mexican economy under NAFTA has affected the ability of writers, filmmakers, actors, musicians and artists to reach international audiences. Speakers will also provide observations on how changes in Mexico in the last two decades have influenced their work. UC MEXUS director Exequiel Ezcurra will serve as moderator.

Session III – Mexico on the Move: Reforms for the 21st Century, 2 p.m.

Moderated by David Shirk, director of University of San Diego’s Justice in Mexico Project and former fellow at the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies, the third session brings together policy makers at the helm of several important contemporary Mexico think tanks. The panel will discuss how President Enrique Pena Nieto’s reform agenda is setting Mexico up to take advantage of many of the country’s opportunities. In addition, Clare Seelke of the Congressional Research Service, will discuss another reform agenda separate from Nieto’s: the current state of U.S. immigration reform.

Session IV – Mexico Looking Forward: Pacific Partnerships, 4 p.m.

Closing out the daylong symposium is the fourth session which will look beyond North America to nations in Asia, across the Pacific. This session will examine how the economic ties between Mexico and Asia can be strengthened. Panelists include Luis Tellez, CEO of the Mexican Stock Exchange and Time Magazine’s “Leader for the New Millennium,” and Susan Shirk, Ho Miu Lam Professor of China and Pacific Relations and 21st Century China Program Chair at the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies.

The Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies, based at UC San Diego’s School of International Relations and Pacific Studies, is a policy research institute. Since 1979, it has been a go-to source for extensive academic research on Mexico and U.S.-Mexico relations, informing the creation, implementation and evaluation of public policy.

For more information about the symposium and to register, go to the Mexico Moving Forward webpage.