We have, as they say, come a long way. For decades, Mexico and Canada’s relationship was one of mutual benign neglect, relating to each other through the prism of our shared borders with the United States. The years since the 1994 enactment of the North American Free Trade Agreement have slowly strengthened our relationship. Today, the bond we share is close, unique and productive, but there is room for improvement. That’s the reason for my visit to Ottawa this week, just a few days before taking the oath to become the new President of Mexico.
Trade between Canada and Mexico is at an all-time high. According to Canadian parliamentary data, Mexico was Canada’s fifth-largest global export destination in 2010, the leader among Latin American countries. Mexico was Canada’s third-largest source of imports worldwide – again, first in Latin America. Canada’s merchandise trade with Mexico totalled $27.1-billion for the year. More than 2,500 Canadian companies do business in Mexico.
These figures typify our maturing relationship. Between 2005 and 2010, growth of Canadian trade with Mexico exceeded the growth of Canadian trade worldwide. As North America rapidly becomes a unified economy, greater expansion is on the horizon. If Mexico and Canada are added to the Trans-Pacific Partnership – a free-trade agreement seeking to further integrate the economies of the Asia-Pacific region – our nations would become part of a bloc covering approximately 658 million people and economic activity of $20.5-trillion. The TPP will yield economic expansion and job creation for both countries, at a time when many of the world’s major economies are facing contraction.
Our strengthened bonds have also spurred greater travel and integration among our peoples. Mexico is the second-largest tourist destination for Canadians, with nearly 1.6 million visiting in 2011. Similarly, more than 130,000 Mexicans visit Canada annually, including a growing number of students pursuing higher education.
So, with a growing economic relationship and increasing people-to-people contacts, what can be improved? At a time when many of our partners continue to be plagued by rising private and government debt levels, our own hemisphere offers an unparalleled economic opportunity. Upon my inauguration on Dec. 1, Mexico will usher in an era of change and reform; a new direction based on efficiency and leadership. Indeed, Mexico is on the cusp of a new growth spurt. Along with Canada, Mexico has outperformed other OECD economies since 2008. Analysts at Goldman Sachs and Nomura have predicted that our country will become one of the 10 largest economies by 2020.
One of the areas with the largest potential for co-operation between Mexico and Canada is energy production and development. Mexico’s energy sector is about to change. I want to enhance its potential by opening it up to national and foreign private investment. We will not give up Mexico’s ownership over energy resources and we will not privatize our state-run oil company, Petróleos Mexicanos. Nevertheless, we will welcome new technologies, partnerships and investments. Canadian energy companies have developed a profound know-how in difficult-to-extract energy. We can cultivate a closer relationship in this area in order to attain North American energy security, a common goal.
We understand that in order to encourage investments in Mexico, the level of violence must decrease. President Felipe Calderon began an important struggle against organized crime. I intend to go deeper and further to finish this task, on the basis of a new strategy.
As with any close friend, there are sometimes issues of concern. Mexicans everywhere are outraged and saddened when tourists visiting our country are endangered. We take these incidents very seriously and understand Canadians’ worries. My government will redouble efforts to protect all those who visit Mexico.
Similarly, it’s important for Mexicans travelling to Canada to be treated with equal care. Last year, more than 17,000 temporary workers travelled to Canada, a relationship benefiting both economies. Others move to Canada permanently. But the 2009 decision to impose visa requirements on Mexican citizens was met with disappointment in our country. We respect Canada’s right to determine its immigration policies. However, I favour a review of the visa policy in light of the increasing number of hard-working Mexicans seeking to visit, work and study legally in your country.
Like Canada’s, Mexico’s future is bright. We share a commitment to democracy and a determination to achieve robust economic growth and energy security. As our ties become stronger, shared prosperity will follow. Mexico is committed to furthering its relationship with Canada, because it will be good for both.
Enrique Peña Nieto is president-elect of Mexico.