STRATEGIC PARTNER

Mexico 2017 | DIPLOMACY | GUEST SPEAKER

TBY talks to Luís Guillermo Solís Rivera, President of Costa Rica, on the Mexican influence in Costa Rica, the importance of regional cooperation, and areas for further partnership.

Luís Guillermo Solís Rivera
BIOGRAPHY
Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera studied history at the University of Costa Rica and completed his master’s in Latin American studies at Tulane University. For 30 years, he has held academic positions, both at the University of Costa Rica and the National University. He was an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs between 1986 and 1990 and worked closely in the formulation and negotiation of the peace process for Central America. He worked for the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences, the Ibero-American Secretariat, and the Foundation of External Services for Peace and Democracy (Fundapem). From 1994 to 1998, he was Ambassador of Costa Rica for Central American Affairs and Director of Foreign Policy.

How would you characterize the importance of Mexico's economic presence in Costa Rica?

I like to think of Mexico and Colombia as our big brothers and sisters; they are a reference for us. I am a historian, so I value very much the fact that Mexico has had a permanent presence in our country since pre-Colombian times. There are many bonds between Costa Rica and Mexico, and clearly the investments that Mexican companies have made in Costa Rica that preceded the free trade agreement are significant, valuable, and provide a lot of employment. I do not think the Mexican FTA has been as successful as others. This is a first-generation FTA and it needs to be updated sometime soon, as it was the first such agreement that Costa Rica had ever signed. All the others follow suit, and we should look into that agreement and areas that have not been as successful so that we can work on them further.

What areas hold the greatest potential for further cooperation between Costa Rica and Mexico?

We have been arguing in favor of global value chains, as well as of working to create trade ecosystems. I like to think that we do not need to see each other as competitors; Mexico is huge, while Costa Rica is very small. Costa Rica's population would fit into Mexico's federal district five or six times over. There is no competition whatsoever; however, we can find areas like the ones we have been trying to develop strongly like services, aerospace, and industry, or high-tech research and development areas wherein Mexico can profit from our academic background and we can profit from Mexico's high convening power. We should think this over, and this is the kind of thing we ought to look into from a diplomatic and trade perspective as well.

How can cooperation on immigration be further expanded in the region?

I hope it will not be necessary and that we will soon see an end to the migration flows that we have seen in the recent past. It is a complicated situation; it is not something that I would like to perpetuate in time. Unfortunately, in all likelihood, it will continue for a while, and we have to be careful. During my visit to the UN and my participation in the conference call with former President Obama, I insisted this needs to be seen as a regional issue; it is not Mexico or Costa Rica's problem, it is everyone's problem. We have to be careful that a problem that affects everyone does not end up being the concern of no one. We look to the other side and let the flows go through and ignore the human and security concerns that all of these countries legitimately have. Most of this migration flow ultimately moves toward the border between Mexico and the US, as Mexico is the nearest point of entry into the US. I would like to see a more regional vision on migration, starting from where they begin—85% of migrants are Haitians—and Brazil, where they dwell before starting to move on north, passing through all of the countries in the middle between Brazil and the US. This is a humanitarian tragedy that we have to look at with sensitive and practical eyes.

Costa Rica is the only Central American country with a Strategic Association with Mexico. What makes Mexico a strategic partner for Costa Rica?

The importance of Mexico lies primarily in its size, its cuisine, and products in certain areas of the country because it is close, and we share with them mutual concerns regarding health, environmental, and security issues. It is important to have a Mexican perspective of the region. As a region the Tuxtla dialog has been one of the first that Central America ever had after the peace agreement in 1987; Mexico is a significant part of the greater Central America, as well as part of the greater Caribbean.