An Interview with Earl Anthony Wayne, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico

Earl Anthony Wayne is the current United States Ambassador to Mexico, confirmed by the Senate on August 2, 2011. A career diplomat since 1975, Wayne has served as First Secretary at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, as Director for Regional Affairs for the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Counter-Terrorism, as Director for Western European Affairs at the National Security Council, as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Mission to the European Union, as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Europe and Canada, and as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of European Affairs. From 2000-06, Wayne was the Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs and from 2006-09 he was the U.S. Ambassador to Argentina. He has received the Paul Wellstone Anti-Slavery Ambassador of the Year Award for his work against trafficking in persons, the Cordell Hull Award for Economic Achievement by Senior Officers, the Department of State’s Distinguished Honor Award, and the Presidential Distinguished and Meritorious Service Awards.

The Politic: Why did you join the Foreign Service?

Since childhood I have been interested in other countries, whether it was looking through National Geographic magazines, reading books about the history of ancient civilizations, reading the Christian Science Monitor which had excellent international coverage or collecting stamps from around the world.  I remember the summer before my senior year in High School, I read “Thunder Out of China” by Theodore White where he recounted his experiences covering the Chinese Revolution.  I was really fascinated and wanted to learn more.  By the time I finished my undergraduate studies, I was convinced I wanted to be a professor teaching about other countries and international affairs, but after a couple of years of graduate study, I decided I would like to try to practice diplomacy and helping to manage relations between countries.  I took the Foreign Service examination and the State Department offered me a job just as I was finishing my oral exams for a Masters degree at Princeton.  I joined the Foreign Service in the summer of 1975 and have had a series of very rewarding assignments since, covering a very wide range of countries and policy issues.

The Politic: Throughout your career you have facilitated international cooperation against terrorism, most recently in Kabul, Afghanistan. How have your experiences prepared you for the challenges you face as Ambassador to Mexico?

Among other skills, a good diplomat has to master the arts of understanding others’ perspectives and goals, building-consensus where possible, and where that isn’t possible, building alliances with like-minded individuals, groups, and countries to achieve priority objectives.  And, like a good leader and manager in any field, a diplomat has to learn the rules of bureaucratic politics in your own and other organizations and how to motivate and guide your team to the best performance possible.  Success involves learning from experience, using your skills and those of your team as creatively as possible, staying flexible, continuing to learn all along the way, and working hard.

From my various jobs working in the Department of State and with other agencies in Washington, I learned the importance of forging agreement among the key actors and agencies with interests in a particular U.S. policy.  In the case of Mexico, most of the agencies in the U.S. government have a role to play in U.S.-Mexico relations.  As Ambassador to the U.S. Mission in Mexico, I am responsible for coordinating the efforts of some 30 U.S. Government agencies.  We have around 2700 employees at the embassy, nine consulates and 12 consular agencies.  The entire mission working to manage and foster one of the most important bi-lateral relationships the United States has anywhere in the world.  For example, Mexico is one of America’s most important economic and commercial partners, so, my work as Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs and my work with the European Union provided very important experiences to help me manage the massive U.S.-Mexico trade and investment relationship.  My service in Afghanistan certainly provided helpful experience for working with a range of law enforcement and security issues and agencies, but the U.S. relationship with Mexico is so much more than that.  We have over 30 million U.S. citizens with family ties to Mexico. 14.5 million Mexicans visited the U.S. for tourism last year while over 20 million U.S. citizens are estimated to have visited Mexico.  It is fair to say that in meeting the opportunities and challenges of being U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, I have drawn on the lessons I learned from throughout my almost 38 year career.  I would say, however, that the most pertinent lessons are those coming from my work with some of America’s closest friends where our relations are the most complex, intricate and important.

The Politic: How does your personal experience as a journalist afford you insight into the recent modification of Article 73 of the Mexican Constitution to federalize crimes against journalists?

As I meet with Mexican journalists, editors, and newspaper publishers I emphasize the fact that my leave of absence from the State Department to work as the national security correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor from 1987-89 was one of the more fulfilling times in my career.  I consistently enjoyed my work because I saw the vital role journalists play in informing the public, and what a difference a free press can make in preserving and strengthening democracy.  Violence against journalists anywhere has a chilling effect on freedom of expression everywhere.  Governments have an obligation and responsibility to protect media freedom and journalist safety, and the Mexican government has recognized this by establishing a protection mechanism for journalists and human rights defenders.  We welcome recent Mexican federal legislation that provides stronger protection for both groups, including the 2012 passage of reforms to Article 73 of the Mexican constitution, which allows federal authorities to assert greater jurisdiction over crimes against journalists and should help address impunity in these cases.

The U.S. government consistently supports press freedom and journalist security.  In Mexico, we work toward the protection of journalists, bloggers, and other media professionals through programs that provide self-protection training, promote ethical and professional coverage by the press, and instill a code of conduct between the media and security forces.  In September 2011, for example, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) launched a four-year, $5 million program to protect journalists and other human rights defenders.  The program focuses on prevention of abuses, protection of defenders, and advocacy for improved protection mechanisms.   The work that we do in the area of press freedom around the world is very important.

The Politic: Is there one experience, person, or event in Mexico that has greatly influenced implementation of one or more policies for which you are responsible? How so?

The landmark event I would point to is President Obama’s May 2-3, 2013, visit to Mexico, and his meeting with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and key members of his administration.  During the visit, both presidents reiterated their firm commitment to forge an even closer relationship between our two countries.

Both presidents focused on the rapidly expanding economic relationship and the promise for both countries of strengthening those ties, not only in bilateral matters but in our ability to compete in the world.   They announced a High-Level Economic Dialogue (HLED), in which high-level officials from both governments will work together to: 1) promote competitiveness and connectivity; 2) foster economic growth and innovation; and 3) partner for global leadership. The first meeting of the Dialogue will take place later this year, including representatives from agencies and departments from both governments.  We also will engage with relevant stakeholders such as the private sector.  We view this Dialogue as a mechanism to continue infrastructure investments, give a boost to smaller businesses, further reduce regulatory barriers, and better empower young entrepreneurs.

The presidents agreed on the need to enhance both nations’ competitiveness and to create more trade and investment opportunities.  To achieve this, our Presidents agreed to seek a successful conclusion to the Trans-Pacific Partnership [TPP] trade negotiations this year that includes 21st century provisions that build on our shared success with the North American Free Trade Agreement.  We see this as an opportunity to go beyond NAFTA, to build on our shared success and prepare our economies for the 21st century.  The TPP offers us a chance to further deepen the economic integration within North America while building stronger links to dynamic markets in the broader Asia-Pacific region.

Both presidents underscored the importance of a secure and efficient shared border to our world-class integrated supply chains, and agreed to support key projects and initiatives that improve infrastructure, bolster the efforts of local communities, facilitate the secure flow of legitimate trade and travel, and enhance law enforcement cooperation along the border. We look forward to continuing our work with the Peña Nieto administration to modernize customs facilities and the infrastructure on both sides of our shared border to make it truly a 21st century border to facilitate the secure, efficient, and rapid flow of goods and people, while reducing the costs of doing business between our two countries.

In an inspiring speech to an audience including many students, President Obama stressed the need to do more to create opportunities for young people and to invest in education to give youth the knowledge and skills they will need to compete in the 21st century.  He and President Pena Nieto agreed to establish a Bilateral Forum on Higher Education, Innovation, and Research, which will bring together government, academia, and civil society to develop a shared vision on educational cooperation and propose concrete short-term and mid-term initiatives to promote bilateral collaboration and policy coordination, in such areas as student exchanges and joint university research.

The Politic: How can the U.S. be of greatest assistance in Mexico’s struggle against drug cartels today?

Again during last month’s visit to Mexico by President Obama, both presidents reaffirmed their commitment to act as co-responsible partners through a renewed collaborative approach to citizen security.  President Obama reiterated U.S. support for Mexico’s efforts, and in particular for the transition to an accusatory system of justice that is transparent, effective, and efficient.  We recognize that it is up to the Mexican people to determine their security structures and how they engage with other nations, including the United States, and we continually emphasize that we support the Mexican government’s focus on reducing violence, and look forward to continuing our good cooperation in ways the Mexican government deems appropriate while ensuring respect for human rights.

Both Presidents also emphasized the importance of continued actions against transnational organized crime, to counter illicit financial flows, to stop illegal arms trafficking, and measures to reduce drug use and its consequences. President Obama reaffirmed our determination in the United States to meet our responsibilities and to continue to work to reduce the demand for illegal drugs and to combat the southbound flow of illegal guns and cash.  President Obama pledged to use the Merida Initiative to support the Mexican government’s security strategy.

While Mexico spends about $10 for every $1 of U.S. Merida funding, examples of collaborative Merida Initiative programs include:

o   Thousands of federal and state police, prosecutors, investigators, judges, and other justice sector personnel who have received professional training;

o   Federal and state police training academies which received new equipment and capabilities, as do the federal corrections system, forensics laboratories, and canine units and academies;

o   Justice sector information technology systems like court case management and distance learning platforms;

o   Aviation units in the Federal Police and military;

o   Five federal agencies that now use non-intrusive inspection equipment to detect drugs, weapons, and other contraband, making border crossing for cargo safer and more efficient;

o   Five federal agencies implementing a vetting system to help assure the quality of employees and three that are developing Internal Affairs capabilities to detect and prevent corruption;

o   Law enforcement information technology and communications systems, and support for Mexico’s new national communications satellite system;

o   Public health agencies creating evidence-based methods to diagnose, prevent, and treat drug addiction.

o   Eighty-eight federal offices training employees on ethical behavior and a culture of lawfulness in their work.

o   Over 7,500 schools providing “culture of lawfulness” instruction to almost 700,000 students in the 2011-12 school year.

o   Federal, state, and civil society organizations seeking to prevent crime, reduce drug demand, and promote a “culture of lawfulness” throughout Mexico.

The Politic: Congress is currently debating immigration reform that could increase border security and allow Mexican immigrants living illegally in the U.S. to become U.S. citizens. How would different versions of this legislation affect the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico?

We want to ensure that those who come to fill needs in the U.S. labor market do so through regulated, legal mechanisms, that they are not exploited, and that they are aware of their rights and respect our laws.  President Obama has called for bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform that addresses our economic and security needs while also honoring our history as a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws.  President Obama has expressed his support and urged Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform meeting four principles:

·         Continuing to Strengthen Border Security;

·         Cracking Down on Employers Hiring Undocumented Workers;

·         Earned Citizenship;

·         Streamlining Legal Immigration.

Mexico is giving great attention to every development in this process.  It is well know that many Mexicans will be directly affected by the outcome of this debate on immigration reform.

The Politic: How has increased border security over the last decade affected the relationship?

Border security is stronger today than it has ever been.  In 2010, Mexico and the United States created an Executive Steering Committee on 21st Century Border Management, aimed at encouraging trade, enhancing public safety, and reducing the cost of doing business in North America.  This senior group of officials has worked to accelerate bi-national cooperation on issues related to border infrastructure, security, and the secure flow of people and goods across our shared border.

For many years conventional wisdom on the U.S./Mexico Border has been that trade and security are mutually exclusive — that an increase in one must lead to a decrease in the other.  But commerce and public safety can be mutually reinforcing.  For example, we are using smarter security practices on our borders that allow us to process goods and travelers we know are safe and legitimate with maximum efficiency, focusing our energies on people and shipments that could potentially pose a threat to our safety and our prosperity.   Mexico has a new trusted shipper program, a counterpart to the U.S. program that expedites customs clearance for registered businesses.  Mexico has certified 72 companies and is reviewing 170 companies.  Both countries are working to increase program enrollment in their trusted shipper programs.  We also have developed trusted traveler programs which are facilitating rapid and safe cross border travel by many.

The Politic: With the rise of dual citizenship, candidates for the Presidency of Mexico are increasing campaigning in California. What implications do you see of dual citizens tipping the balance in either country?

While I don’t see any particular implications in the near term of dual citizens “tipping the balance” in either country, the importance of our people to people connections cannot be overstated.  These broad and deep connections exist between our countries, and they are extremely important to the prosperity and culture of both societies.  Over ten percent of the U.S. population has some family link to Mexico and over one million U.S. citizens live in Mexico.  The number of Mexican visitors to the U.S. in 2012 reached a record 14.5 million, up 8 percent over 2011.  We have implemented some new initiatives to make the United States an even more popular tourist destination.   The U.S. and Mexican embassies and consulates promote mutual understanding and inclusive opportunities.  They do this through public and private partnerships and joint support of exchanges, leadership development, and educational opportunities for Mexican youth, journalists, students, educators, professionals, and public servants. We also engage the Mexican-American community to facilitate more significant engagement between the United States and Mexico, to help face the challenges shared by our two countries.

State Department Public Diplomacy programs expand and deepen partnerships and people-to-people relations through educational exchanges, cultural programs, and extensive outreach activities, such as visiting U.S. experts engaging with Mexican counterparts.  We also work together to promote English language learning and to present performing and visual arts programs.  Our outreach emphasizes encouraging opportunity through education, citizen security, and strong institutions.  We are working with Mexicans to advance President Obama’s goal of getting 100,000 U.S. students to study in Latin America and 100,000 Latin Americans to study in the United States.

The U.S. Mission to Mexico is committed to facilitating travel between the United States and Mexico.  In a one year period ending last September 30, the Mission adjudicated over two million visitor visa applications – a landmark made possible by significant investments in consular resources across Mexico.  The Embassy and our Consulates are committed to prompt, efficient and transparent visa services that honor our national security objectives to the benefit of our citizens and international visitors alike.

The Politic: Could you discuss any promising new plans to increase economic engagement between the U.S. and Mexico?

Yes.  In addition to the High Level Economic Dialogue and other items on the economic agenda mentioned previously, I would point to last month’s signing of a Statement of Intent to form the Mexican – US Entrepreneurship and Innovation Council or (MUSEIC) between the U.S. Department of State and the National Entrepreneurship Institute (INADEM). The council’s priority is to support the high-impact entrepreneurship environment by sharing best practices and enabling the development of joint programs to accelerate entrepreneurship and innovation. This effort will help strengthen North American innovation and entrepreneurship.

The Politic: China has been investing more in South America and has demonstrated interest in boosting trade with Mexico, as well as in the potential for eventually signing a free trade agreement. How does this growing exchange affect the economic relationship between the U.S. and Mexico?

Given the degree of connectivity between our two economies, much of what is good for Mexico is good for the United States and vice versa.  U.S. and Mexican companies do not simply sell products to one another, they build products together.  This shared process means the competitiveness of our two countries is closely linked, and improvements in productivity in one nation make a co-manufactured product cheaper and more competitive on the global market. That is to say, growth in Mexico or the United States boosts exports from both countries: when it comes to manufacturing, we are in it together.  The recent visit by China’s president to both Mexico and the United States displayed the importance of relations with China for both countries, while at the same time the May meeting between President Obama and President Pena Nieto showed the mutual commitment to deepen the Mexico-U.S. economic relationship.

The Politic: With oil revenues providing a high share of federal revenues, what changes do you foresee as Mexico becomes a net importer of oil later this decade?

In 2012, Mexico was the world’s ninth largest oil producer.  It is a reliable, stable supplier close to the United States.  Although Mexico was our third largest source of foreign crude oil exports in 2012, Mexico’s crude oil production and exports to the United States have both fallen over the years, with exports down to just under 1 million barrels per day in 2012.  Mexican President Pena Nieto has made energy reform a priority.

The Politic: Do you expect the U.S. and Mexico to cooperate more on developing alternative energies in the future?

The Obama Administration places a high priority on energy cooperation.  We have a regular dialogue with the Mexican government on energy issues, including clean energy through the U.S.-Mexico Bilateral Framework on Clean Energy and Climate Change, the Cross-Border Electricity Task Force, energy efficiency through the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas, and sharing best practices through the Unconventional Gas Technical Engagement Program.  Mexico is an important player in Connect 2022, a hemispheric initiative to promote electricity grid interconnection throughout the hemisphere.  We are also collaborating with Mexico on wind energy, energy efficiency, and a bilateral renewable energy market.  In 2012, Mexico and the United States signed a memorandum of understanding that defines how we work together on environment and energy issues, including a new five-year, $70 million Global Climate Change program in Mexico, which  focuses on developing a low emissions development strategy, reducing emissions from the forestry sector, and promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency.  Mexico is also working closely with us on advancing low emissions development globally through the LEDS Global Partnership.

Also, in February 2012, the United States, Mexico, and four other countries announced the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, a new partnership to address the need to reduce short-lived climate forcers, including methane, black carbon, and many hydrofluorocarbons, which contribute to global warming and have detrimental health and environmental impacts.

The Politic: How do you feel that the United States is represented abroad?

While a number of federal agencies have a role in international affairs, the U.S. Department of State is the lead institution for the conduct of American diplomacy.  The Foreign Service is a corps of more than 12,000 employees dedicated to representing America abroad and responding to the needs of American citizens living and traveling around the world.  The Department’s Civil Service, totaling more than 9,000 employees, provides continuity and expertise in accomplishing all aspects of the Department’s mission.  There are also more than 37,000 Foreign Service National Staff (locally hired staff) at our overseas posts.

With 25 different career paths available, Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) and Specialists can be sent to any embassy, consulate or diplomatic mission in the world at any time, including locations throughout the United States.  Civil Service employees remain in Washington, D.C. or other domestic locations and provide continuity and expertise in achieving the Department’s mission.  FSOs deal with a variety of challenges, which may include consular services such as screening visa applicants and issuing visas; political initiatives such as observing elections in host countries; or analyzing and reporting on issues such as HIV/ AIDS, rights, fair trade, and technology.  And, the Department of State has made a priority of increasing the diversity of our ranks, and this as the key to representing the United States most fairly overseas.  There are a lot of great opportunities with the State Department, and I urge your readers to review them at and see what might be right for them.

The United States is also represented here at the Embassy in Mexico City and other missions abroad by agencies such as the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Commerce, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Department of Agriculture, the Peace Corps, and the Treasury Department, among others.  With the unified goal of implementing and informing U.S. policy through engagement with host country populations, these diverse organizations bring specific expertise to the opportunities and challenges we take on every day.  For example, the Department of Defense works with host country military organizations, manages security assistance programs, provides training opportunities for military personnel, and technical support for the military, while USAID programs support Mexican leadership in specific technical areas that are high priorities for both the U.S. and Mexican Governments, including: 1) Mexico’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; 2) economic competitiveness to improve citizens’ lives; 3) development and testing of models to mitigate the impact of community crime and violence; and 4) implementation of criminal justice constitutional reforms that protect citizens’ rights.

Meanwhile, the Peace Corps promotes cooperation and friendship between the American people and those of other countries by inviting qualified American citizens to spend two years living in their host country working to contribute to the country’s socio-economic development while creating lasting bonds of friendship and goodwill.  Our Agricultural Trade Office carries out a variety of trade services geared to helping U.S. agricultural exporters sell and promote their products in the Mexican market, while the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service manages a line of customized services geared to the needs of all other U.S. exporters.  For more specific details on the function of each representative office at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, I encourage you to visit

Embassy of the United States to Mexico:

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