During most of the 20th century, the Mexican political system was characterized by the centralized government decision-making processes in the Federal Executive Branch agencies, due to the fact that government officials, senators, and representatives of Congress belonged primarily to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI)—a center-left party that emerged from the Mexican Revolution and governed Mexico for 70 years. Hence, all lobbying activities involved the agencies that answered directly to the President, who exercised undeniable power through formal and informal institutions.
Decision-making processes were decentralized since 1997 when the PRI lost its majority in Congress. This situation was further accentuated in 2000 when the country experienced its first alternation in power of the 21st century as the National Action Party (PAN)—a right-wing party—won the Mexican presidential election. Consequently, the demands of organized groups of society were not limited to the President and his cabinet, but were openly promoted before the House of Representatives and the Senate.
This phenomenon required a function or activity that would facilitate communication between economic and social agents who were not familiar with the language used in parliamentary politics. At the same time, the senators and representatives in the Lower House began to understand the importance and benefits obtained from building networks between organized groups and Congress—an activity known as lobbying.
Lobbying is an activity of communication and persuasion based on scientific, economic and social evidence aimed at those who hold political representation, as well as government officials. It is a fundamental part of a public decision-making process in which the technical expertise and practical experience of the productive activities carried out by the chambers and trade associations, companies, and social organizations work together in policy shaping that strengthen political representation, one of the basic functions of democracy.
The main contribution of lobbying is to keep communication channels open between society and the state powers through the dissemination of reliable and consistent specialized knowledge that generates credibility and places public agenda matters on the debate, in a scene in which decision-making processes in Mexico are based on political, economic and social pluralism.
The National Association of Lobbying Professionals (PROCAB) was created in an effort to make sure that the activity would have rules of conduct underpinned by a code of ethics and values recognized by an organization that gives importance to social responsibility as its mainstay. PROCAB was formed with the firm objective of promoting the development of lobbying activities under the axes of transparency and respect for the law. PROCAB is comprised of professional lobbying firms and companies that meet the requirement of having a longstanding track record of lobbying activities and ample knowledge of the sectors in which they interact and are involved.
The private sector has understood the democratic context that prevails in Mexico, and has therefore played an increasingly active role in defining public policy to promote widespread reforms. The involvement of employers, chambers, and associations has evolved into a continuous learning process in which the structure of forums and the search for experts on specific issues or problems has played a strong and major role in government decision-making processes. The balanced approach of the private sector with public power must be consistent, always based on the perception that all approaches must be grounded on the foundations of truth, dialogue, and respect.
The Mexican Congress therefore decided to include lobbying regulations in the internal rules for the House of Representatives and the Senate in 2010, as it understood that the need for dialogue between lobbying firms and companies was becoming a constant and thus called for transparency.
The Lower House established the need for a statutory registry that must be renewed at the beginning of each term (lasting three years), where each lobbyist must submit an application with the lobbyist's or organization's full name, valid official identification documents, the list of individuals authorized to engage in lobbying activities, and the corresponding legislative committees or areas of interest.
In the Senate, however, the undertaking is established in its own regulations. It punishes public officers who receive gifts, thus providing certainty and stability to those engaged in lobbying activities, including Senators and their staff.
Under those rules, the lobbying firms and the business sector have met all of the requirements set by the Legislative Branch, with the firm desire to help build democracy in Mexico.
The conformation of the new government elected in 2012 faces daunting challenges as more is required of public policy and a national project that transcends the barriers of the conflicts existing between parties, while its structure must include all possible voices with sound, truthful, and substantiated information to achieve those goals.
The current situation also calls for the public authorities to perfect the mechanisms needed to manage lobbying in Mexico, which must contribute to transparency and the systematic participation of associations, organizations, and companies in the dialogue system involved in making public policy, rather than allowing it to become a restrictive measure.
This is where lobbying and the private sector's role take on greater relevance in establishing trust, ethics, transparency and professionalism with the government authorities in order to take a clear stance on bills or proposals presented by all levels of government, with the sole purpose of contributing to the development of Mexico and its citizens.
- TBY would like to thank Gustavo Almaraz Petrie, Executive Director of Grupo Estrategia Política (GEP) for compiling this analysis.