WELL PLACED

Mexico 2014 | DIPLOMACY | GUEST SPEAKER

TBY talks to HE Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland, on building and strengthening ties with Mexico.

HE Michael D. Higgins
BIOGRAPHY
A passionate political voice, a poet and writer, academic and statesman, human rights advocate, promoter of inclusive citizenship and champion of creativity within Irish society, Michael D. Higgins has previously served at almost every level of public life in Ireland, including as Ireland’s first Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht. He was a lecturer in Political Science and Sociology at the National University of Ireland, Galway, and the US. A desire to work more directly for equality and justice led him to enter public life and he went on to serve as a public representative at many levels from Councilor and Mayor to nine years in the Seanad and 25 in Dáil Éireann. He was inaugurated as the ninth President of Ireland in 2011.

Following your visit to Mexico in October, you stated the importance of deepening Ireland's business ties with Mexico. What aspects of bilateral relations will both nations focus on?

Ireland and Mexico enjoy strong links of history, culture, business, and education. My visit to Mexico focused strongly on the potential to enhance the already excellent links between our countries. Ireland and Mexico share common values and interests in areas of global concern, including combating climate change, promoting disarmament and non-proliferation, encouraging sustainable development, addressing global hunger and under nutrition, and advancing gender equality. President Peña Nieto and I agreed that Mexico and Ireland would work more closely together to advance these key priorities at the UN, OECD, and other global fora. We see enormous potential in the economic relationship between us. Mexico is Ireland's 17th largest global trade partner, and we have seen significant investment by Irish companies in Mexico in a wide variety of sectors. We are pleased that Ireland has a presence in the important and vibrant market of Mexico, but we can do more. During my visit, President Peña Nieto and I agreed that there are significant additional opportunities for trade and investment between Mexico and Ireland. We want to support Irish companies in developing further their partnerships in Mexico and to encourage more companies to explore the Mexican market. Ireland has become a world leader in financial and ICT services, in agribusiness, and in biotech and life sciences. There are enormous opportunities for Mexican and Irish companies to collaborate more in each of these sectors. We also see great potential in deeper cooperation in the educational and academic sphere.

Mexico is Ireland's largest market in Latin America with commercial ties reaching $1.24 billion in 2012. What areas of bilateral trade have the greatest potential for growth?

Both Ireland and Mexico have young populations. During my visit to Mexico, I spoke of how our young people are beginning their working lives in an economy that is very different than five years ago, let alone 10. The lives of our young people have been shaped by technology in a way unimaginable to previous generations. Sometimes it seems that technology changes so fast that we have barely time to assess the implications of one development before it has been overtaken by another. But this rate of change, while daunting, should be embraced as a vista of opportunity. During my visit to Mexico, our governments signed a joint declaration highlighting the strong economic cooperation between Ireland and Mexico in areas such as agribusiness, the airline and aircraft leasing sector, pharmaceuticals, and ICT. These are examples of areas in which we already have a strong commercial presence in Mexico but there are many more that can be developed over time, including software, digital and online learning, engineering, and project management services, not to mention the food and drink sector and renewable energy—there are so many possibilities. I would also hope to see further cooperation in the science and technology area.

What are Mexico's advantages as a destination for the Irish investment?

During my visit to Mexico, I had the honor of being the first serving European Head of State or Government to address the prestigious Cumbre de Negocios in Guadalajara. My key message to the audience there was that Mexico is a valued partner for Ireland, and that Ireland should also be a valued partner of choice for Mexican business. Mexico has significant advantages as a destination for investment by Irish business. It is the 14th largest economy in the world with a population of 112 million, with a young and dynamic workforce, and over 44 free trade agreements (FTAs) with partners across the world, including the EU. Some of Ireland's most innovative and successful companies have already invested in Mexico in the agribusiness, paper and packaging, airline, engineering, and pharmaceuticals sectors. Dynamic Irish companies including the Kerry Group, SmurfitKappa, Irelandia, Kentech, Bimeda, H&K, and Randox are contributing to the Mexican economy and are creating high-quality jobs in Mexico.

Regarding the new regulations, particularly the energy and the financial reform, what is your outlook for the future?

During my visit to Mexico I wished President Peña Nieto well in the ambitious reform agenda he is undertaking, in areas including education, energy, finance, and telecommunications. It is vital that all public policy reform is aimed at improving the day-to-day lives of citizens, improving access to quality education, communications infrastructure, efficient financial services for families and small businesses, health and nutrition, and affordable and clean energy. President Peña Nieto has spoken often about the necessity of ensuring that the rights outlined in the Mexican constitution are reflected in the day-to-day reality of the lives of all Mexicans. I wish the government and people of Mexico well in achieving this vital goal and building a peaceful, prosperous, and just society.