Mexico: A new heavy weight in a global world

Laurence M Denis, The University of Texas School of Public Health


In the last three decades, obesity has been gaining recognition as a serious public health problem in Mexico. This epidemic developed insidiously in a country that was still focused on chronic under-nutrition in the population. During that same period, macro-economic reforms projected Mexico into the global economic arena. Foreign investments, trade in goods and services, and technological transfers were promoted through participation in numerous trade agreements between Mexico and other countries. The North American Trade Agreement (NAFTA), signed in 1994, promised an integrated market between the three North American countries: Canada, the United States, and Mexico. Although these trade policies were likely to have effects on the available food supply in Mexico, this association has not been elucidated. In this case study, we examine how these trade liberalization policies may have influenced the food supply in Mexico. Information on the trade of food commodities between the United States and Mexico and the nature of foreign investment in Mexico was compiled using public data available through American, Mexican, and other international published reports for 1986 through 2011. After the implementation of NAFTA, an increase in trade and investments was observed between Mexico and its two North American partners, but most of the trade increase occurred between the US and Mexico. Since the liberalization of trade policies between these counties, exports of fruit and vegetables into the U.S. from Mexico have increased, while exports of cereals, fats, vegetable oils, meat, dairy products and processed foods from the U.S. into Mexico have increased. During this same time period, there has been an increase in the foreign direct investment in the food industry in Mexico, as well as changes in the types and amounts of dietary energy available on a population level. Specifically, between 1990 to 2006, the dietary energy supply per person has increased 6.1% available animal protein has increased 35.8%, and available fat has increased 18.9%. Thus, this case study suggests that the recent changes in food-related industries through foreign direct investment and market liberalization may be likely contributors to the obesogenic food environment in Mexico. Although this initial case study provides interesting data, whether trade liberalization policies should be considered hazardous for health as a distal determinant of the obesity epidemic needs to be further examined using a more stringent study design or further follow up of the US Mexico trade data.

Subject Area

Agricultural economics|Nutrition|Public health

Recommended Citation

Denis, Laurence M, "Mexico: A new heavy weight in a global world" (2011). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1497716.