Mexicans have "looked on with envy in recent years as Brazilians won a reputation as Latin America's chosen people", says Elisabeth Malkin in The New York Times. The Brazil story gained momentum as China drove the commodity boom, fuelling Brazilian exports, while the huge domestic market also excited investors. But even before Brazil went off the boil amid China's recent downturn, Mexico was being unfairly ignored.
Investors have been put off by ongoing drug-related violence. The economy's close links to America 80% of its exports go there meant many dismissed it as a mere US outpost. Yet Mexico has come a long way over the past 20 years. In 1993, the central bank became independent, bolstering its inflation-fighting credibility and helping lower inflation from 43% to 4% today.
Interest rates have also dropped to similar levels. The national debt is now just 27% and the budget deficit last year was only 2.5% of GDP. Mexico passed a balanced budget rule in 2006, imposing fiscal discipline on the government. It now has a "sound macroeconomic footing", says Richard Fisher in the FT.
Subscribe to MoneyWeek
Subscribe to MoneyWeek today and get your first six magazine issues absolutely FREE
Privatising state-owned entities helped lay the foundations for growth, as did joining the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994. It lowered tariffs and, along with a falling peso, has made Mexico increasingly competitive. It helped spur a revival in manufacturing, which has hit record levels. Nissan and Honda are planning new plants in Mexico and consumer sentiment is at a four-year high.
Growth has rarely exceeded 2% a year over the past decade, however, although that should now change. The frontrunner in July's presidential election, Enrique Pea Nieto, wants to allow private companies to join state-owned monopoly Pemex in producing oil. He also wants to dismantle the burdensome regulations that have hampered the labour market.
Unblocking these two bottlenecks should give economic output a hefty fillip, reckon analysts. It may be too early to be sure that reform will definitely happen, says Morgan Stanley's Gray Newman. But "I suspect we are on the eve of the most promising opportunity the country has seen in more than a decade". Brazil may keep hogging the headlines, but the country to keep an eye on for now is Mexico.
Bitcoin hits new heights - is now a good time to invest?
The value of Bitcoin has surged to a 20-month high. Why is Bitcoin rising and is now a good time to invest?
By Vaishali Varu Published
Gold hits record high - could it soar higher next year?
The yellow metal has hit a new all-time high. We look at market expectations for 2024, whether investors should sell and take profits, and how to invest in gold.
By Ruth Emery Published