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Sub-State Diplomacy in Mexico

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This article analyses the international relations of Mexican sub-state governments. It aims to answer four questions: 1) What explains the recent and dramatic increase in their international activities?; 2) Do these federal units have an independent foreign policy?; 3) What are their levels or degrees of sub-state diplomacy?; and 4) Which variables explain the variation in their degree of sub-state diplomacy? The first section argues that the growth in international activities is generated by the combination of two sets of variables: a) the growing interdependence and globalization of the international system; and b) the democratization, decentralization and structural reform processes in the domestic arena. The second section sustains that Mexican sub-national units do not have a foreign policy of their own. The third section shows that there is a wide variation in the states’ degree of international participation. In order to characterize this variation, a typology is constructed and the 32 Mexican federal units are classified in two moments in time (2004 and 2009) and a comparative analysis between these two periods is presented. The fourth section argues that the degree of sub-state diplomacy depends on three variables: economic (gross state product); political (juxtaposed government); and geographic (border location). Each of these variables is tested to determine its impact, providing evidence to sustain the relevance of the economic variable, arguing that juxtaposed government functions as a trigger variable for initiating or increasing external activities, and that the border is a necessary, but not sufficient, variable to explain the degree of international projection.

Affiliations: 1: Department of International Studies, Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE) Carretera México-Toluca 3655, Lomas de Santa Fe, Álvaro Obregón, México D.F. 01210, México, Email:


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