On the economic level, Salinas confirmed and developed the policy initiated by Mexico de la Madrid. The privatization program was accelerated and from basic sectors, such as mining, steel, transport and telecommunications, it extended to the banking system itself, nationalized by Lopez Portillo in September 1982, at the beginning of the financial crisis; from over 1150 in 1982 the enterprises belonging to the state have been reduced to less than 300 in 1993, while the sale of this assets also to foreign buyers has allowed, together with the restructuring measures agreed with international creditors, a certain reduction of the foreign debt.
According to a2zdirectory, the liberalization of foreign trade and the opening of the economy to foreign capital was accompanied by an anti-inflationary policy based on triangular pacts between the government, entrepreneurs and trade unions for the control of prices, wages, public spending and the rate exchange rate; this policy, inaugurated by Mexico de la Madrid with the Pacto de solidaridad económica of December 1987, was continued by Salinas with the Pacto para la estabilidad y el crecimiento económico of December 1988, regularly renewed in the following years. In fact, inflation, which in the period 1980-89 had averaged over 70% per annum, has fallen below 20% since 1989, while the compression of the public deficit has been accompanied, since 1989, by a moderate recovery in production and an increase in foreign investments, also due to the return of a part of the huge capital that fled from Mexico in the early 1980s; however, the removal of trade barriers favored a rapid increase in imports and the current account deficit.
In the international field, Salinas has promoted a further improvement of relations with the USA, already developed by de la Madrid; the detachment from the traditional PRI policy was also favored by the decrease in tension in Central America, which allowed, among other things, to start the return of the more than 200,000 refugees who flocked to Mexico in the 1980s from El Salvador and Guatemala. On the economic level, while confirming relations with this region and the other Latin American countries (cooperation agreements have been negotiated since 1991 with the Central American states, Colombia, Venezuela and Chile), Salinas has above all tried to strengthen the ties with the USA and to promote a process of integration of Mexico in the North American area.
Fueled by the migratory movement towards the USA, the US interest in Mexican oil, the growth of trade and the inflow of US capital into Mexico, economic relations with the US have drawn new life from the liberalization policy started in the 1980s. While the preponderant weight of the United States in Mexican foreign trade has further accentuated (reaching levels close to 70% of the total), between 1986 and 1992 US exports to Mexico have almost quadrupled and the country has become the third largest market. outlet of the USA. Of particular note was the growth in US investment in the border area south of the Rio Grande, both in the automotive industry and in the so-called maquiladoras., which have had a strong development, especially in the electrical, electronic and clothing sectors; at the beginning of the nineties, the maquiladoras amounted to a number of about 2000 and absorbed almost half a million workers, mostly women.
The constitution of an integrated economic area throughout North America, which had already begun with the free trade treaty between the USA and Canada signed in 1988 and entered into force in January 1989, was the subject of negotiations between Mexico and two states since 1990: in August 1992 they led to the definition of an agreement, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which provides for the creation of a single market between the three countries within fifteen years (with the complete elimination of all restrictions on trade and investments but not on emigration from Mexico to the USA), the adoption of a common external tariff and the introduction of rules to protect the local industry. Signed on December 17, 1992 by Salinas, the President of the United States G. Bush and the Canadian Prime Minister B. Mulroney, NAFTA is expected to enter into force on January 1, 1994, after ratification by the three Parliaments; it should give a further boost to the growth of US investment in Mexico, where wage costs are much lower and environmental legislation less binding,
Despite the economic recovery of the early 1990s, unemployment in Mexico remained high and the living conditions of large masses of the population remained difficult. Since 1989 Salinas has started a Programa nacional de solidaridad (Pronasol), which provides for the financing of social projects, in the medical, housing, educational fields, or to create essential infrastructures in the poorest areas of the country. This initiative sought to promote the reformist image of the new administration and to revive the consensus for the PRI among the poor masses, especially among the urban ones, also through the creation of local party support networks, while the policy aimed at integrating the Mexico in the North American area has raised hopes for economic development and modernization especially among the middle classes.
The legislative elections of August 1991 registered a recovery of consensus on the part of the PRI. It increased its seats in the Chamber (from 260 to 320), to the detriment of the PAN (which fell from 101 to 89 deputies) and above all of the forces that in 1988 had given birth to the FDN; presented divided, also due to the new electoral law, these obtained a total of 91 seats (against 139 in the FDN in 1988): 41 for the PRD, 23 for the Partido del Frente Cardenista de Reconstrucción Nacional(PFCRN), 15 for the Partido Auténtico de la Revolución Mexicana (PARM) and 12 the Partido Popular Socialista (PPS). On the same occasion, mid-term elections were held for the first time for the Senate, which, on the basis of an institutional change that came into force in 1991, has since been subject to a three-year renewal of half of the seats (while the senators remain in office six years); of the 32 seats up for grabs, 31 were won by the PRI and one by the PAN: in the new Senate, therefore, the PRI has 61 seats, the PRD 2 (obtained in 1988 as FDN) and the PAN one. These consultations were also followed by protests from opposition parties, in particular the PRD, which denounced extensive irregularities; despite the 1989-90 reforms, in fact, the electoral manipulations of the PRI have continued and in some cases have assumed such conspicuous dimensions as to force the federal government to intervene, at least on the local level,
Strengthened by the regained two-thirds congressional majority, Salinas was able to accelerate after August 1991 the program of economic liberalization and intensification of ties with the USA, further moving away from the traditional policy of the PRI and also involving some provisions of the constitution of 1917. In February 1992 the Congress approved a constitutional reform that put an end to the land distribution system established in 1917 and developed above all by L. Cárdenas: a process of privatization of the funds (ejidos) previously owned by the state and granted only for use to peasants, so as to allow their sale and possibly acquisition by large companies. Another constitutional amendment, passed at the beginning of 1992, abolished the restrictions against the Catholic Church sanctioned in 1917 and dating back in part to the liberal constitution of 1857; in September 1992, Mexico re-established diplomatic relations with the Holy See, which had been interrupted since 1861.