February 22, 2019
“Mexico is much more important to the United States than most people understand.”
This was the overarching message delivered by Earl Anthony Wayne, former U.S. ambassador to Mexico, during Angelo State University’s 2019 E. James Holland-Roy A. Harrell Jr. Foreign Affairs Speakers Program. This year’s topic focused exclusively on the partnership between the U.S. and Mexico.
Interested in international affairs at a very young age, Wayne entered the Foreign Service after completing graduate school. He held positions all over the world, including assistant secretary of state for economic and business affairs, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Europe, ambassador to Argentina and deputy ambassador in Afghanistan.
“One of the neat things about serving in the diplomatic corps is that, if you want, you can specialize in one region or you can go in different regions around the world,” Wayne said. “I came in as something called a political officer, but then I was asked to work in economics. I wasn’t an economic officer, but I had worked on economics while working with Europe.”
His final assignment took him to Mexico as U.S. ambassador, which served as his primary focus for this year’s ASU lecture. During his presentation titled “The Importance of Getting U.S.-Mexico Relations Right,” Wayne addressed all the good things that come from a strong relationship between the two countries.
“There are a lot of good things that happen between the United States and Mexico,” he explained. “Usually we pay attention to the bad things that happen and the challenges. And there are real challenges, but there’s a lot of mutual benefit that comes from building things together.”
Wayne primarily focused on trade, discussing the economic advantages that both countries gain through a strong partnership. He addressed topics such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the newly proposed United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), as well as Texas’ particular benefits with our neighbors.
“One of the big challenges we’ve had in the United States is people using very simplistic descriptions of what doesn’t work with Mexico,” Wayne said. “It really misleads people about what’s going on. For example, a lot of people believe that NAFTA costs the United States all sorts of jobs – it actually overall has created more jobs, and for Texas particularly, it’s been a gigantic job creator.”
He also touched briefly on current issues at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“There’s much more good on what happens on the border than bad,” Wayne said. “The bad does happen, and we need to get better at dealing with that, but I hope that if people have a more sophisticated understanding, then they’ll support real solutions to the problem as opposed to the ones that make you rhetorically feel good.”
In addition to his public lecture, Wayne met with students throughout the day, including visits to several classrooms and a luncheon and Q&A session with members of ASU’s Honors Program.
“I hope students take away a more sophisticated understanding of the U.S./Mexico relationship,” Wayne said. “That they are less susceptible to simplistic answers and descriptions about what the challenges are and what’s good and bad.”
“We have a democracy,” he continued, “and a democracy depends on having educated citizens. Citizens should be able to draw their own conclusions and be well informed. When they do that, our democracy functions well. When they aren’t well informed, that sways the democracy, which is dangerous for the democracy as a whole.”
He also encouraged students to explore the world.
“Learn about other countries,” Wayne said. “It’s so easy to do initially on the internet, but you now have more opportunities than ever to go explore these places. It doesn’t mean you should not cherish the United States, but there are a lot of neat things to explore in the rest of the world.”