Jun. 29, 2018

Pierre Alarie


Pierre Alarie

Ambassador of Canada, Mexico

“We export about 75-80% of our goods to the US, and we need to look elsewhere if the US becomes more stringent in the way it does business.”


Pierre Alarie was appointed the Canadian Ambassador to Mexico in 2015. Ambassador Alarie joined the Department of External Affairs in 1982. He later worked for several Canadian companies including Bombardier, SNC-Lavalin International, and Scotiabank. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from the College of Europe, Bruges.

What do you expect the impact of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) to be on trade between Canada and Mexico?

It was important in terms of timing. Together with Mexico, we have shown that we are interested in new markets in Asia. It has an historical and commercial value in the sense that we are opening ourselves to new Asia–Pacific markets. Furthermore, we did not have FTAs with certain countries in the region, such as Japan and Malaysia, and now we have a means of engaging in these agreements, together with Mexico. Mexico and Canada have shown commitment to being partners as we seek to open up new trade in Asia. The CPTPP demonstrates this importance that we attach to trade diversification.

How does Canada see the Pacific Alliance (PA), and what can it gain from the strengthening of this commercial and political alliance?

This is an interesting alliance for us, even though we already have FTAs in place with all of its member countries. We are embarking with New Zealand, Singapore, and Australia in this venture of becoming associate states. The fact that Mexico pushed so hard for Canada to become one of the first associate members demonstrates the strong bilateral relationship between the two countries. We often forget that Mexico is Canada's third-largest trading partner after the US and China; we need to keep it in the forefront of our trade consciousness. Canada and Mexico have the same issue: we export about 75-80% of our goods to the US, and we need to look elsewhere if the US becomes more stringent in the way it does business. The Pacific Alliance and the CPTPP are great examples of such initiatives.

How are Canadian and Mexican companies cooperating to transfer knowledge and conduct joint research projects in key sectors for both economies?

Aerospace is one example. Bombardier came to Mexico about 15 years ago and established a plant. They realized the market did not have the right makeup of skilled workers; hence, they sat down with universities to create a curriculum that would train for these necessary skills. This has since transformed into an aerospace cluster that now trains some of the most highly skilled workers in the sector. Canadian companies are doing the same in the mining, oil, and gas industry. There was an important agreement in 2017 between the Ministry of Energy, the University of Alberta, and the University of Calgary to train technicians and engineers in these areas. We want to help develop the curriculum to ensure fresh engineering graduates have the right skill sets and knowledge base to address the industry's growing challenges. The reality is that the last 18 months have allowed Canada and Mexico to assess their relationship more closely and forge new and lasting bonds. The relationship was slightly dormant before this. We were partly ignorant of one another before recent events forced us to reevaluate. Over the last 18 months, this reevaluation has gone extremely well, and we are poised to strengthen ties in ever more exciting ways.

What short-term results do you expect?

In the short term, we expect a number of positive developments. More Mexican students will be able to come to Canada to study. Roughly 20,000 Mexican students come to Canada to study every year, and we can do better than this. That said, this marks a significant increase from just a few years ago. We have top universities for a fraction of the price one might pay in the US. Canada has done a poor job of selling itself in terms of its education value in the past, though that is now changing quickly. We have a full-time education officer in the embassy whose job is to promote education opportunities in Canada—the proof is in the pudding. Now, we need to bring more Canadian students to Mexico, which has been a challenge for us. If one studies abroad, they become an excellent personal ambassador for their country, and they build a network that will last their whole life. We want to deepen these ties to Mexico. We could have 25,000-30,000 Mexican students in Canada, year in and year out. We must be ambitious.

How can Canada and Mexico foster their reciprocal promotion as tourism destinations?

We recently won the bid to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup with Mexico and the US. This will provide us a huge opportunity to promote the image of all three countries together. Now that we have lifted the visa requirements, the increase in tourism reached 47% last year. A total of 257,000 Mexicans visited Canada in 2017, and we hope for 400,000 this year. Many Canadians are unaware of how great the cities in Mexico are. We hope to see more Canadians visiting these great cultural centers across Mexico when they come to visit the beaches. I am extremely confident that tourism will continue to grow between the two countries.

Which sectors of the Mexican economy hold the largest potential for increasing investment inflows from Canada?

We are extremely active in the aerospace, auto parts, mining, and financial sectors in the country. We have around 60 Canadian companies in the auto parts sector, and they operate 116 plants across Mexico. However, this is an industry that flies below the radar a great deal of the time. We also have important activities in the banking sector. Moreover, we have pension funds that operate here and they have hundreds of millions of dollars invested. Canadian companies are looking more at the agribusiness sector as well. There are many new areas of investment popping up.