DEEPENING TIES

Mexico 2018 | DIPLOMACY | GUEST SPEAKER

TBY talks to Pierre Alarie, Ambassador of Canada in Mexico, on the need to assess the countries' relationship more closely, the creation of new and lasting bonds, and areas with great potential for investment.

 Pierre Alarie
BIOGRAPHY
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. Ambassador Alarie has a master’s degree in public administration from the College of Europe, Bruges.

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

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 and the oil and gas industries right now. There was an important agreement in 2017 between the Ministry of Energy, University of Alberta, and University of Calgary to train technicians and engineers in these areas. We want to help develop the curriculum to ensure young engineers exiting university have the right skill set 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 re-evaluate. Over the last 18 months, this re-evaluation 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 it 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 studying in Canada year in, year out. We must be ambitious.

How can Canada and Mexico foster 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. 257,000 Mexicans visited Canada in 2017, and we hope for 400,000 in 2018. 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 tourism will continue to grow between our 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. We have pension funds that operate here as well, and they have hundreds of millions of dollars invested. Furthermore, Canadian companies are looking more at the agribusiness sector. There are many new areas of investment popping up.