Medical tourism is a cutthroat business. According to US-based Patients Beyond Borders, some 14 million patients worldwide visited overseas hospitals and clinics in 2016. The commercial intensity has much to do with the cash infusion at stake. So there is little surprise that Tucson—home to medical science-oriented University of Arizona—wants to get into the game. There is, however, a twist in its strategy. Local authorities are targeting free-spending Mexicans. The approach is a testimony to booming wealth south of the border. GDP per capita stands at about $19,000 in Mexico, nesting the country between Turkey and Thailand in a global ranking. The southern Arizona city may see early wins in siphoning off the estimated 16,000 medical tourists who visit Houston every year. Further gains will come from an underdeveloped Mexican market for US-based services. Tucson should offer Washington a lesson in the texture of cross-border relations.

Our Vantage Point: Medical tourism is one example of new-found ways to build emerging-market exposure. Investors can benefit directly through health-care companies, or indirectly through hospitality businesses.

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