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Globally, remittances -- the cash that immigrants send home -- totaled nearly $276 billion in 2006, the World Bank says. Remittances have more than doubled since 2000, and with globalization increasing the numbers of people on the move, there's no end in sight.
And unlike the conventional economy, more cash tends to change hands in an economic downturn, political crisis, natural disaster, famine or war.
U.S., Mexico Deepen Economic Ties
The U.S. is Mexico’s top trading partner by far. About 88 percent of Mexico’s exports go to the U.S., and 56 percent of its imports come from U.S. sources. At the same time, 14 percent of U.S. exports go to Mexico and 11 percent of imports come across the Rio Grande. Perhaps more important, U.S.–Mexico trade has grown exponentially since the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), growing from $89.5 billion in 1993 to $275.3 billion in 2004, a threefold increase.
The two economies are also linked by the flow of Mexican immigrants to the U.S. and the remittances they send back home to their families. The approximately 10 million Mexican nationals who reside in the U.S. sent back an estimated $20 billion in 2005, an amount equivalent to 3 percent of Mexico’s GDP.
The two-day North American Leaders' Summit appears to lack a signature issue, except perhaps a new U.S. push to halt Mexico's bloody drug wars.
Instead, the broad theme is economic prosperity, built around several topics: border security, competitiveness with India and China, product safety and energy solutions.
"What's really important is that they continue to reflect the significance of North American integration -- the fact that there are post 9/11 problems, but they aren't going to undermine trade and investment," said Charles Doran, a scholar at John Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies.