Today's matchup pits the exotic against the close-to-home. Americans probably feel as though they know more about Canada and Mexico than they do about other foreign markets, even though the numbers suggest that they don't actually invest there much. Yet far-flung countries like India and the nations of Southeast Asia entice financial writers and investors with stories of remarkable growth and future promise.

Too many folks in the U.S. dismiss Canada as "America Jr." Canada is a country with its own advantages and opportunities, plus the benefit of a common language with ours and similar outlooks on government and business policy. And poor Mexico ... well, it's almost forgotten unless it's time to talk about immigration policy again.

On the flip side, India and Southeast Asia get a lot of press, but the true state of things doesn't always come out. For instance, India may be the world's largest democracy (and a fast-growing economy with many educated young people), but it's also a bureaucratic cesspool of inefficiencies. And though many investors may be hard-pressed to name the capitals of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asia nations) nations, they're willing to buy in to the idea that this is a "must-invest" area.

So what's the real scoop? Are our neighbors to the north and south unfairly ignored? Do India and Southeast Asia offer growth prospects unlike those in the rest of the world? Watch our Fools hash out their cases, and make your own call.

Economic details*
(Largest per region in total GDP)

Country GDP/Capita GDP Growth Inflation
Canada $35,840 2.7% 2.3%
Mexico $7,280 3.1% 4.1%
India $772 6.8% 4.5%
Indonesia $1,230 4.9% 7.4%
Thailand $2,780 4.7% 3.7%
Data from Economist Intelligence Unit.
*Projections for 2006.

Notable companies:

  • Canada: Alcan (NYSE:AL), Inco (NYSE:N), Nortel (NYSE:NT)
  • Mexico: Cemex (NYSE:CX), AmericaMovil (NYSE:AMX), FEMSA (NYSE:FMX)
  • India: Dr. Reddy's Laboratories (NYSE:RDY), ICICI Bank (NYSE:IBN), Infosys (NASDAQ:INFY)
  • Indonesia: PT Telkom (NYSE:TLK), IndonesiaFund (NYSE:IF)
  • Thailand: No Thai companies are listed on major U.S. exchanges.

In this match, Seth Jayson will be taking a look at North America, while Tim Beyers focuses on India and Southeast Asia.

For more international stock ideas, check out The Motley Fool International Report: Around the World in 80 Minutes.

Fool contributor Stephen Simpson owns shares of America Movil and FEMSA but has no financial interest in any other stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares). The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.