U.S. State Department Geographic Bureaus: Latin America Bureau


Fact Sheet: U.S. Mexico Binational Commission

The U.S.-Mexico Binational Commission (BNC) is a unique forum established by the two countries to allow for regular exchanges at the Cabinet level on a wide range of issues critical to U.S.-Mexico relations.

Development of the BNC

Presidents Carter and Lopez Portillo established the precursor to the BNC in May 1977 to provide better coordination in U.S.-Mexico relations. Then called the U.S. Mexico Consultative Mechanism, it had three broad working groupsÄpolitical, social, and economicÄand subgroups within each of these. At the first meeting in May 1978, Secretary of State Vance and Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations Roel met in Mexico with the chairmen of the working groups to review the first year's progress.

In February 1979, the two Presidents agreed to reorganize and strengthen the Consultative Mechanism. The working groups were realigned and broadened to provide an improved forum for discussion and understanding. The presidents later reaffirmed the Consultative Mechanism during their September 1979 meeting in Washington, DC.

The Binational Commission was established in 1981 by Presidents Reagan and Lopez Portillo to serve as a forum for meetings between Cabinet- level officials from both countries. The new BNC was envisioned as a simple, flexible tool that would meet once or twice annually, with counterparts exchanging an action agenda of topics requiring attention. One of the early, temporary action groups formed in November 1981, the Border Relations Action group, met twice and carried out several on-site investigations and technical-level consultations and submitted recommendations to the two governments.

BNC Structure

This year's BNC meeting is the 12th since 1981. The meeting has become a one-day conference chaired by the U.S. Secretary of State and the Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations. Each delegation includes numerous Cabinet-level officials and other agency chiefs. Meeting in plenary sessions and working groups, they discuss a complex and diverse range of bilateral issues which have international and domestic impact.

The number of groups has grown steadily. Nine working groups met at the 1989 BNC. Two additional groups, education and agriculture, were added in 1990. In 1991, working groups on housing and urban development and labor were added, bringing the total to 12. A transportation working group also met informally for the first time. The education working group was combined with the cultural affairs working group. For the 1993 BNC, transportation was added as a full-fledged working group, and a new science and technology subgroup was formed.

In preparing for the BNC, each group develops an agenda which serves as the basis of working group discussions. In some years, bilateral agreements are signed. Furthermore, the working groups continue to communicate throughout the intervening months between BNC meetings. Some working groups meet several times each year in addition to the formal BNC session.

Contacts between the two governments at every level from staff to Cabinet officials have proliferated, partly as an outgrowth of the BNC. The approval of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has seen these contacts grow still closer and more frequent. The 1995 BNC meeting is the first since the December 1994 inauguration of Ernesto Zedillo as President of Mexico. The meeting offers an opportunity for both countries to review and strengthen the overall relationship.

Consultative Mechanism Meeting Dates May 1977 May 1978

BNC Meeting Dates November 1981 November 1982 April 1983 April 1984 July 1985 January 1987 August 1989 August 1990 September 1991 June 1993 May 1994 May 1995

BNC Working Groups Agriculture Business Development, Fisheries and Tourism Education and Cultural Affairs Environmental Cooperation Fiscal, Financial and Customs Issues Housing and Urban Development Labor Legal Affairs and Anti-Narcotics Issues Migration and Consular Affairs Trade and Investment Transportation

Bilateral Relations: Border Cooperation Subgroup Science and Technology Subgroup


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