Canada and Mexico at North America’s crossroads

| December 18, 2017 | 0 Comments
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto have been particularly strong allies since NAFTA renegotiations began. (Photo: Sam Garcia)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto have been particularly strong allies since NAFTA renegotiations began. (Photo: Sam Garcia)

When he was in Mexico in October, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau re-affirmed the friendship between Canada and Mexico. “Canada and Mexico are not only strong partners — we are close friends who share common goals and work shoulder-to-shoulder to advance them. From fighting climate change to building economies that work for everyone, we are united in our desire for a better future,” he stated.
It is an honour for me to share some reflections on the extensive and close relationship that exists between Mexico and Canada. It is particularly relevant at the current crossroads for North America, where Canada and Mexico have clearly demonstrated a commitment to working together towards a new stage in our relationship. An example of this close collaboration is the visit to Canada of President Enrique Peña Nieto in June 2016, as well as the visit of Trudeau to Mexico in October 2017.
As Mexico’s ambassador to this great nation, which hosts the second-largest Mexican community abroad, it has been rewarding to witness from a front-row seat how Canada enjoys an impeccable reputation as an open, diverse, peaceful and tolerant nation, one that is setting an example for many around the world. Mexico and Canada are united by strong diplomatic, cultural, educational and commercial ties. This year, we celebrate 74 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two nations, 44 years of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, 24 years of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and 14 years of the Canada-Mexico Partnership.
This relationship continues to strengthen and enrich itself year after year, not only through dialogue at the highest level and between government agencies in each country, but also through day-to-day operations. Interactions between entrepreneurs, investors, tourists, students, retirees, scientists and temporary workers have grown considerably. Our relationship has evolved from being good neighbours and business partners to forming a strategic partnership with a long-term vision and a common agenda. We exercise our leadership not only in North America, but in the hemisphere and throughout the world.
We share a common agenda in trade, energy, innovation and mobility, to name a few areas. We have established various co-operation mechanisms to advance our shared priorities and we work together in the international arena from which both countries are committed to peace, democracy, transparency, open trade, the promotion of human rights, gender equality, the protection of LGBTQI communities and the fight against climate change, among other important issues.
Regarding our trade relations, we are convinced that NAFTA has been beneficial to Mexico, Canada and the U.S. It has increased trade and investment across the region, stimulated integrated production and generated employment in all three countries. Since the entry into force of NAFTA, the commercial relationship between our countries has strengthened and become more competitive. In 2016, trade between the two countries had a nine-fold increase, totalling $35 billion US, compared to the $4 billion total in 1993. Mexico is the fourth-largest export market for Canadian products, importing approximately $10 billion US. Our trade is extensive and competitive, strengthening regional value chains. We trade in high-tech and manufacturing products, as well as agricultural ones: As an example, 95 per cent of the avocados consumed in Canada come from Mexico, while 90 per cent of the canola that Mexico imports comes from Canada.
Roughly 4,000 companies with Canadian capital operate in Mexico, 20 of which are listed on the Mexican Stock Exchange. For 17 years, Canada’s foreign direct investment has been a key element in the integration of our economies, mainly in the mining, financial and automotive sectors, placing Canada as the fourth-largest foreign investor, with investments totalling $29.7 billion US in Mexico.
Mexico and Canada have a close energy partnership that has intensified as a result of the deep reform undertaken by my country in this important sector. Canadian companies have increasingly participated in bidding processes on energy infrastructure projects and co-operation in research projects has increased. Collaboration in the production and use of biojet fuel to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in the aviation sector and in the development of technologies for the measurement, reporting, verification and reduction of oil and gas emissions in order to combat climate change are just some examples.
With respect to the mobility of people, following the removal of the visa requirement in December 2016, the number of Mexican visitors to Canada has increased by more than 50 per cent. Mexico has also grown to become the second most popular tourist destination for Canadians. The nearly two million Canadians who visit annually help to make Mexico the eighth-preferred destination for tourists worldwide. Visitors enjoy travelling around the fifth-most biodiverse country in the world, visiting the 34 sites inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, and, of course, delighting their palates with a cuisine that has been declared an intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
But mobility is not only tourism: with 44 years of operation, the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program is considered a model of safe, orderly and circular migration, thanks to the ongoing dialogue between both countries and to the assistance and protection work carried out by the Mexican consular network in Canada. In 2016 alone, approximately 24,000 workers participated in this program, representing an annual growth of 10.9 per cent.
Exchanges and mobility of people are also evident in the educational field. Every year, we see an increased number of Mexican citizens studying in Canada. Just in 2016, approximately 6,000 Mexicans were admitted to the country on a student visa, 55 per cent more than the number admitted in 2007. The Mexican government is actively working to increase this figure. We are confident that soon there will be 10,000 Mexican students studying in Canada, many of them thanks to the efforts and programs of the federal government. Likewise, we expect an increase in the number of Canadian students visiting Mexican institutions.
In recent years, we have worked diligently to reach agreements and achieve co-operation in innovation, technological entrepreneurship, competitiveness and connectivity, and we have laid the foundations for a stronger alliance capable of creating more jobs, promoting investment and strengthening our countries’ competitiveness. Among various projects, Canada and Mexico are encouraging the mobility of researchers and highly qualified staff for the development of clean energy technologies, and have reiterated their commitment to continue collaborating in specific areas to promote the social and economic development of indigenous peoples and communities.
In terms of regional co-operation, and as a result of a letter of intent signed during Peña Nieto’s visit in June 2016, Mexico and Canada have developed an action plan for carrying out specific joint actions in Central America and the Caribbean. These actions touch upon a wide range of goals, including promoting health and the rights of women and girls in the region; combatting climate change; reducing disaster risk and preventing migration of unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, among others.
Beyond commercial and economic aspects, as proof of the strong friendship that unites us, Mexico and Canada have supported each other in the most pressing times, as evidenced by the 360 Mexican wildfire technicians and firefighters who went to British Columbia to assist with the historic fires that ravaged the province in 2017, and by a donation of $100,000 to the Mexican Red Cross and 1,500 tents for affected communities provided by Canada’s federal government to those affected by the two earthquakes that impacted several states of Mexico this past September.
Mexicans believe in building bridges, in dialogue, in mutual respect and understanding, beliefs that are also highly treasured and shared by Canadians. I am certain that the co-operation between our countries will continue to strengthen, as we collaborate on the vast common agenda for the benefit of our respective populations.

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