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Canada and Mexico: Strategic partners

Francisco Barrio-Terrazas

Harper_Calderon

North American leaders met August 10, 2009 in Guadalajara to promote global competitiveness of the region, foster the well-being of their citizens and ensure more security for the three countries.

The relationship between Mexico and Canada has grown exponentially since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1944. Today, with increasing bilateral trade and tourism, Canada is not only our close neighbour, but has become a strategic partner.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed 16 years ago and there has already been a threefold increase in trade for Mexico. This has coincided with a significant decrease in poverty in the country.

Canada is now Mexico’s second largest trading partner worldwide after the United States. In comparison, in 2009 Canada’s trade with Mexico reached US$21.7 billion; thereby, only three countries have larger trade relationships with Canada than Mexico.

Bilateral exchange in goods takes place daily and is worth over US$52 million. Mexican exports to Canada, which annually amount to US$14.6 billion, surpass all exports to Latin America combined (US$11.4 billion).

In order to attract more Mexican business travellers to Canada after visas were implemented in July 2009, Minister of International Trade Peter Van Loan launched a special, invitation-only visa program on April 10, 2010 to assure that participants have their visa requests processed within a day. This program for Mexican business travellers represents an important step forward. Hopefully, it is also the beginning of a simplified visa application process for more Mexicans travelling to Canada or coming to study.

Canadian and Mexican companies need to keep working together to fuel our economic recovery after the global recession. Over 2,000 Canadian companies have found Mexico to be a very suitable place for working and investing. In terms of foreign direct investment, they have placed over US$9 billion in Mexico. Some of Canada’s largest firms have stated that their Mexican operations are among the most profitable they have around the world.

As for tourism, despite the negative impact of the H1N1 crisis, over one million Canadians vacationed and spent more than US$1 billion in Mexico last year. This represents a 7.6 per cent increase in the number of visitors compared to 2008, making Canada the second largest —and steadily growing— market for the Mexican tourism industry. Moreover, thousands of Canadian snowbirds have a second home in Mexico where they spend up to six months every year.

Bilateral exchanges in many other economic areas are likely to expand further, given the work both countries are doing to simplify the movement not only of goods and products, but of people between our countries.

Support and understanding between Mexico and Canada is not circumscribed to times of crises. An illustration of this is the longstanding Mexico-Canada collaboration in the area of labour mobility. Indeed, the two countries have worked together for 36 years in this field. They boosted and enhanced productivity of Canadian farms and greenhouses through the participation of Mexican temporary workers under the auspices of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP). This program has been operating since 1974 on the basis of a Memorandum of Understanding that ensures the protection of workers’ rights and facilitates an orderly flow of seasonal agricultural workers based on demand. During eight months each year roughly 16,000 Mexican workers are employed on farms and greenhouses in nine provinces of Canada. In 2009, 15,351 workers participated in spite of the international economic slowdown, bad weather conditions in Canada and the H1N1 outbreak in Mexico. Thus, it could be viewed as a model to follow in many parts of the world.

Yet, there are still many other areas where co-operation could be enhanced, such as energy and the environment, infrastructure development, science and technology, health, public security and law enforcement.

There has been some fruitful legal co-operation between the two countries who both share democratic values and strongly defend rule of law and human rights.

Early in 2010, a group of Mexican judges from the states of Chihuahua, Morelos and Zacatecas conducted a working visit to Canada to expand their knowledge of procedures for oral and adversarial trials. The judges exchanged useful experiences on how to best implement the Mexican constitutional reforms that entered into force in October 2008. These reforms aim to establish more efficient and transparent criminal proceedings that respect human rights of both victims and defendants.

Regarding law enforcement, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) recently provided a new training course in executive leadership to a group of 42 commanders of the Federal Police from Mexico’s Ministry of Public Security, an important contribution to organizational capacity-building in the Americas. To bolster Mexican policing capacity, the group of federal police officers was trained in November 2009 by Canadian specialists in managerial and leadership skills.

In August and October 2009, during previous phases of this initiative, Spanish-speaking RCMP instructors had travelled to Mexico to provide basic training and mid-level management education to a group of Mexican police officers.

All these efforts could be strengthened through Canada’s Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program that has earmarked an investment of up to C$15 million per year to support various programs established with several countries in the Americas, including Mexico.

More than ever, Mexico and Canada have to be bound by a shared commitment to further support and build understanding as partners. We can still achieve a more extensive, productive and promising partnership.blue square

Francisco Barrio-Terrazas is the Ambassador of Mexico to Canada.


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