By Peter O'Dowd, Fronteras Desk

Trade between the United States and Mexico reached a half-trillion dollars in 2011. Cross-border commerce is growing despite escalating drug violence in Mexico.

The final tally came out to $500 billion in goods and services traded between the two countries, according to a paper by the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars and Arizona State University's North American Center for Transborder Studies.

Co-author Christopher Wilson says commerce between the United States and Mexico has reached a milestone, despite concerns that instability from warring drug cartels would hinder trade.

"It also leads one to ask what would Mexico’s economic growth and foreign investment look like in Mexico if there were not this security situation? And I think the answer is there would be more," Wilson says.

Wilson says trade between the U.S. and Mexico is growing faster than trade with any other large country, such as China. He credits the global recession, which made North America a more competitive place to do business.

Fronteras Desk is a collaborative project of seven public broadcasting entities in Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas, including Arizona Public Media.