Moving Forward: The Evolving US and Mexico Partnership
October 23, 2019 | Washington, DC
H.E. Martha Bárcena Coqui, Ambassador of Mexico to the United States
Karen DeYoung, Senior National Security Correspondent and Associate Editor, The Washington Post

On October 23, 2019, the Women’s Foreign Policy Group hosted a conversation with the Ambassador of Mexico to the United States, Martha Bárcena Coqui, to discuss the evolving relationship between the US and Mexico. In the discussion moderated by Karen DeYoung of The Washington Post, Ambassador Bárcena emphasized the importance of passing the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA), the priorities of President Lopez Obrador, and the pressures on the border between the two countries.

Ambassador Bárcena is cautiously optimistic that Congress will pass the USMCA before the end of the year. “I’m reading the signals that we are having on Capitol Hill from the Republicans and the Democratic Party given all of the statements from Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying she wants to find a path to ‘yes’, and being from California, she knows the importance of Mexico,” Bárcena said. She warned that not ratifying USMCA would be devastating to both the economic wellbeing of the US and Mexico, as well as to the US’s reputation as a trustworthy partner.

According to the Ambassador, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who was elected in 2018, has had more success keeping the relationship with President Trump on an even keel than the previous president. “The relationship between Mexico and the US has never been easy…but we know that we are tied together.” She attributes this success in part to avoiding public confrontation, the strength of President Lopez Obrador in Mexico, and a focus on solutions over problems.

Among the challenges facing the two countries, Ambassador Bárcena addressed the influx of migrants on the border, as well as the movement of guns from Texas to Mexico. President Lopez Obrador’s government has repeatedly stated that the only way to address migration is by attacking the root causes—namely the lack of opportunities and lack of hope. The Ambassador applauded the US administration’s recent announcements that it will unfreeze $150 million in aid to Central American countries, and that it will relaunch its program for economic growth of Central America and Mexico in February. On guns, Ambassador Bárcena said Mexico’s data shows most of the arms used illegally in Mexico are bought in Texas, and part of the problem is the inability to effectively detect the transport of disassembled arms. The two countries have created a high level working group to increase intelligence cooperation on this issue, but it is too soon to point to specific progress.

Ambassador Bárcena became the first woman to serve as ambassador of Mexico to the United States in January 2019. Before that, she served as an ambassador to Turkey, Denmark, and as Consul in Barcelona. When approaching her meetings with leaders around the world, she said she “tries to always go into a room and to go with a smile on my face and have that attitude to say how do we solve the issues.”

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Ambassador Martha Bárcena Coqui of Mexico


Moderator Karen DeYoung, The Washington Post

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WFPG Executive Director Kim Kahnhauser Freeman


Moderator Karen DeYoung interviews the Ambassador

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Ambassador Bárcena discusses the relationship
between Mexico and the US


Ambassador Floreta Faber of Albania, asks a
question during the Q&A


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WFPG Member Susan Reardon asks a question


The speakers during the discussion

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Karen DeYoung thanks Ambassador Bárcena


An audience member asks a question

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WFPG President Emeritus Patricia Ellis, Ambassador
Faber, and Ambassador Bárcena during the reception


WFPG Corporate Advisory Council Member Leila Afas
of Toyota and Marleine Davis of Motorola

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Heather Godsmark of Dentons and Fernanda Cáceres


Board Member Kristi Rogers, Ambassador Bárcena, 
and Leadership Circle Member Jan DuPlain

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WFPG Board Member Maureen White


WFPG Board Member Allison Ford and Gretchen Ehle

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Wame Phetlhu, Deputy Chief of Mission of
Botswana, and Amy Alvarez of AT&T


WFPG Corporate Advisory Council Members Dana Linnet
and Keri Lowry of Guidehouse, with Heather Godsmark

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Patricia Ellis, Jan DuPlain, and Tara Clifford


Ambassador Bárcena greets guests

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Guests during the reception


Amy Alvarez and Sofia Machado, Embassy of Argentina

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