Enrique Pena Nieto is the president of Mexico.
Canada and Mexico are going through one of the best moments of our relationship. The ties that link us, as well as the values and principles we share, make it stronger every day. This year, we celebrate 73 years of diplomatic relations, and we are witnessing a historical moment characterized by both countries' political willingness to further strengthen our ties and deepen our strategic dialogue under a renewed perspective. The current regional context demands a revitalization of the co-operation that already exists between our countries.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's first visit to Mexico on Oct. 12-13 confirms the close friendship between our people and governments. Over the past years, we have undertaken three main efforts to consolidate our bilateral relationship: Capitalize and continue strengthening our shared values and institutionalized co-operation mechanisms; achieve a more articulated mobility between our societies; and increase bilateral trade.
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Firstly, since Prime Minister Trudeau's election, I have shared with him my commitment to the promotion of common values, such as democracy, free trade, human rights, gender equality and environmental protection.
The bilateral relationship between Mexico and Canada lays upon mechanisms to deepen our dialogue at the highest level. Last year, in October, we celebrated the first meeting of the High-Level Strategic Dialogue, which guides our efforts to implement a common agenda. We have also reinforced co-operation regarding the economic empowerment of women in both countries.
So far, we have supported each other in the most pressing times. After the fires that ravaged British Columbia, 360 Mexican wildfire technicians and firefighters were sent to the province, while Canada provided aid in the aftermath of the recent earthquakes in Mexico, for which we are grateful.
Second, as we have grown closer economically, our cultural and social ties have also intensified. More than 96,000 people of Mexican origin live in Canada, and more than 60,000 Canadians live in Mexico, contributing to the economy, society and culture of both countries.
Mexico and Canada celebrate the positive results of last December's visa removal for Mexican visitors. The number of Mexicans travelling to Canada has increased significantly. In 2016, more than 250,000 Mexicans visited Canada; in just the first seven months of 2017, this number is already more than 228,000, with record levels in July.
Another example of increased bilateral mobility is the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program. Since it began in 1974, it has become a symbol of our bilateral relationship and a model for international co-operation to maintain orderly, legal and safe migratory flows between our countries. Last year, close to 24,000 Mexican workers participated in the program.
Regarding academic exchanges, Mexico is committed to continuing investing more in education, innovation, and research to foster competitiveness and prosperity in North America. Through the Bilateral Forum on Higher Education, Innovation and Research with Canada (FOBESIIC) and Proyecta 10,000, Mexico's Ministry of Education granted 460 scholarships for students to take a four-week intensive English-language course in Canada.
Third, our governments support the promotion of shared prosperity and increased regional competitiveness. Through the North American free-trade agreement, our region has become increasingly integrated and more competitive. Today, the social, economic and commercial ties within the region are stronger than ever.
After more than 20 years, both countries have enjoyed significant economic and social gains from NAFTA. Mexican imports from Canada increased from $1.2-billion to $9.6-billion between 1993 and 2016. Furthermore, Canada is our fourth trade partner and the fourth source of foreign direct investment in our country.
The government of Mexico will keep working constructively with Canada to further strengthen our relations, achieve mutual benefits and contribute to reaching our shared goal: to make North America the most prosperous and competitive region in the world.
I am confident that the continuing dialogue with Prime Minister Trudeau will undoubtedly enhance our collaboration with the Canadian government to advance our shared objectives, while ensuring that our bilateral relationship continues to be at its best, with a broader agenda than ever. I am convinced that this vital junction for Canada-Mexico relations will translate into more and better opportunities for our countries.
Finally, on behalf of the Mexican people, I extend our warmest and most sincere congratulations for the 150th anniversary of Canada's Confederation.