What opportunities should Mexico take advantage of with trade partners outside of the US?
Mexico is the most open country in the world, with 48 trade agreements. Our trade balance with the US and Canada is impressive, at nearly USD1 trillion, the largest in the world. We are an open economy and promote open trade with no restrictions. We have had the change with Trump, who came in and disrupted in a negative way by working with a completely ignorant economic position by forgetting that trade is a win-win situation for both economies. He is completely wrong in his position, which poses a serious threat to Mexico's development. This is why we are already working with new partners on new trade deals. Fortunately, after negotiations and discussions we reached a new NAFTA for what will hopefully be the next 25 years, though merely a week later Trump was threatening everything again and saying he would close the border for automobile imports and impose tariffs. We have to be on guard at all times now and maintain the diversification process.
What are your expectations for 2019?
For 2019, we will possibly see the American economy slowing down, which immediately affects Mexico and all of Latin America. We do not have high expectations for growth in 2019 because of that reason, though Mexico has a strong economic position together with the US and Canada. We also have the strongest and largest manufacturing cluster in the region, larger than the rest of Latin America. Mexico is extremely competitive and has a strong economy that always respects the fundamentals with interest and inflation rates under control. This guarantees us a positive future ahead though we have two major problems: corruption and violence. They are linked together because the cartels are so strong economically that they can corrupt government authorities, municipalities, governors, and members of the armed forces. It is extremely difficult to compete with the powerful cartels that operate in Mexico, as they get USD55 billion from the US market. This makes them more powerful than many economies in Latin America, and we have to compete with that, which is the biggest challenge Mexico has to overcome. Legalization will be extremely crucial in the fight against the drug cartels, as taking the plant away from them is part of the solution, and through legalizing cannabis we will stop crime, violence, and cartels.
How have you seen a change of perception of cannabis as a medical tool in Latin America?
In my time in government, there was no other choice than prohibition and illegal markets, so there was no evaluation of what happened before. It only developed the use for illegal purposes, which complicated the situation in Mexico and generated extreme violence, especially given the product's transit from Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela heading north, a migration that included all drugs. That brought a tough war to Mexico. It was not until recent times, after I left politics and became an activist promoting openness and the legalization of markets, that legalization as a trend has gained a lot of traction. Since this will not reverse, we are all getting ready to accelerate the development of the market.