Mexico has a new president, Claudia Sheinbaum. What does it mean for the United States?

When Mexicans elected a new president, they also chose the next negotiator-in-chief who will make tough choices with the United States on issues from immigration and trade to fentanyl trafficking.

Mexicans voted overwhelmingly for Claudia Sheinbaum, giving her more than 58% of the vote and a substantial mandate to govern the second-largest economy in Latin America and the No. 1 trading partner for the United States.

When President Andrés Manuel López Obrador leaves his post and Sheinbaum takes office on Oct. 1, she’ll inherit a country that is reeling from slow economic growth and violence linked to organized crime. She’ll also face a fractured relationship with the United States. Despite deep cross-border economic ties, the U.S.-Mexico relationship has been tested by the countries’ shared problems with global migration and drug trafficking.

“The two countries have been suffering from an incredible fumbling of the ball in dealing with each other,” said Tony Payan, director of the Center for the U.S. and Mexico at Rice University’s Baker Institute. “I think the two countries need to come back to the table.”

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Americans may love “taco Tuesday” and vacationing in Cancun, but the complexity of the U.S.-Mexico relationship is often lost amid marketing and political rhetoric. Mexico’s stamp on the U.S. is everywhere.

It’s in the Mexico-made car parts that keep U.S. autoworkers employed in Detroit, in the windmill blades exported to U.S. clean energy plants, in the pacemakers saving the lives of American patients with heart failure, and in the $15 avocado toast on restaurant menus nationwide.

U.S. exports to Mexico include grains grown in the Midwest and natural gas pumped in Texas. Mexico sends fruits and vegetables north, keeping grocery costs lower amid volatile inflation in the U.S.

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The country became the United States’ largest trading partner last year, pushing China to the No. 2 spot, and the two neighbors now do nearly $800 billion in trade annually, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

But it’s a fraught relationship. Mexico is also the transit country for hundreds of thousands of U.S.-bound migrants, provoking repeated humanitarian crises at the U.S. border. And it’s the source country for the fentanyl that kills tens of thousands of Americans each year.

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada foreign trade agreement, known as the USMCA – negotiated during the Trump administration – is up for renegotiation in 2026. U.S.-based business leaders are concerned that renegotiating the deal could create uncertainty and hurt both countries’ economies.

“Mexico is now the U.S.’s main trading partner,” said Jennifer Apperti, director of the Texas-Mexico Center at Southern Methodist University. “To again reopen the door to things that have just been negotiated would be, honestly, not the best use of time. And business time is of the essence.”

Domingo Garcia, president of the U.S.-based League of United Latin American Citizens, said in a statement that he looked forward to “building bridges” with the Sheinbaum administration.

In past meetings, Garcia said he found Sheinbaum “open, engaging, and willing to listen and share her thoughts on moving forward. Mexicans are vital to the United States’ economic future and our hemisphere’s overall robust vibrancy. At the same time, we must consider environmental and scientific initiatives in the interest of our well-being today and for future generations.”

With an estimated 60% turnout for Sunday’s vote, it was one of Mexico’s biggest elections in history. Nearly 100 million people were eligible to vote.

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For the first time, Mexican citizens living in the United States were able to cast their ballots in person at 20 consulates in the U.S., including in Phoenix.

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