During the first years of the implementation of the North American free-trade agreement, commentators argued that it in fact stood for two bilateral agreements: the first between Canada and the United States, and the second between the United States and Mexico. This has now become an outdated point of view. Today, almost twenty years after its implementation, NAFTA is no longer considered a two-part deal between three countries. NAFTA is both a mirror and a motor of a far more integrated North American region.
In 1993, Canada and Mexico’s annual bilateral trade stood at $4.1-billion. Few could imagine back then that these two countries would trade more than eight times that amount today. If we add the value of imports measured by each country, and thus account for their trade through the United States, total bilateral trade adds up to $35-billion a year. Thousands of jobs, both in Canada and Mexico, stem from this exchange.
Canada and Mexico have more in common than being neighbors of the United States. They are friends and partners that share the vision of making North America the most competitive region in the world. Just last year, Mexico traded more goods with Canada than it did with Great Britain or Japan, and four and a half times what Brazil did.
These past decades have represented a period of mutual recognition for Canada and Mexico. Over the years, more Canadian companies have chosen Mexico as a place to do business in, due mainly to the country’s growth opportunities, geographical and cultural proximity, and economic and political stability. Canada is Mexico’s fourth largest source of foreign direct investment. Although Canadian companies are present in more than 18 different sectors, including mining, they play a fundamental role in the development of the aeronautical and telecommunications sectors.
Yet, the relationship between these two countries is not limited to trade and commerce. Every year more than 1.6 million Canadian nationals visit Mexico’s beaches, colonial cities, archeological sites, and its dynamic metropolitan areas, a figure equivalent to one out of every twenty Canadians. Getting to know each culture firsthand, without intermediaries, is the best way to deepen understanding.
Canada and Mexico have the opportunity to act as regional partners in multiple international mechanisms, from the G20 to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, to promote the region’s interests. Mexico has consolidated its position as an advocate of international order and stability, a promoter and supporter of free trade, a safe country for foreign investment, and an advocate of peace and development.
Current conditions are favorable to the expansion of the relationship. President Enrique Pena Nieto has set off a series of structural reforms that are vital for Mexico’s development, such as in education and telecommunications. He is committed to fight inequality and poverty in order to consolidate the country as an actor with global responsibility. Mexico’s political institutions are stronger and more vital than ever. It is one of the fifteen top economies in the world. The Mexican people are ready to seize the opportunities before them.
Mr. Pena visited Ottawa as president-elect last November. During his meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper they shared insights on how to best promote political and economic ties. Under their leadership, there is a common sense of purpose and a shared recognition of the benefits that working together brings to both societies. Next year marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between Canada and Mexico. The countries can show how far their economic integration, co-operation and friendship have evolved, and all they can accomplish together.
Jose Antonio Meade is Mexico’s Minister of Foreign Affairs