A free-trade agreement between Mexico and the United States is one of those ideas that looks great on paper but could be very hard to make work in the real world. But it's good that the two governments have agreed to talk about it.
Reducing the many trade, investment and labor barriers between Mexico and the United States, in theory at least, makes a great deal of sense. Mexico is poor, with a young and fast-growing population. It needs the investment and technology the United States has to offer. The United States needs the oil and other natural resources Mexico has, including cheap labor. And a nearby market of 100 million Mexicans eager to buy U.S.-made goods sounds exciting, too.
That's why it was big news last week when the Bush Administration revealed that top U.S. officials have met privately with their Mexican counterparts to discuss the possibility of negotiating a U.S.-Mexico free-trade agreement similar to a pact signed with Canada in 1988. But how even that tentative announcement was greeted in each country is very revealing.
U.S. newspapers played it on the front page, befitting the importance of a plan that could create a common market of 350 million people from the Arctic Circle to Yucatan. Mexican media played it up too, but with a decidedly different spin: Their stories featured comments from Mexicans denouncing the plan, like the intellectual who warned that "our way of life is at stake."