LIOR YAFE

Mexico 2021 | DIPLOMACY & ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

Given the vast amount of opportunities and talent available in Mexico, the main objective of the Israeli embassy is to show Israeli companies that Mexico is not merely a vacation destination.

Lior Yafe
BIOGRAPHY

Lior Yafe holds a bachelor's degree in law and political science from Tel Aviv University and the University of Florida and a master's degree in political science from Hebrew University. After completing his studies, he was an articled clerk at the Civil Department in the state attorney's office, an attorney at the deputy attorney general office at the Ministry of Defense, and an attorney at the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy. At the Ministry of Economy and Industry, Yafe worked in the Invest in Israel department and later at the WTO department at the Foreign Trade Administration. He was also the co-founder of two mobile apps start-ups, Mezeze/Noknok and Nemesis.

What factors have helped to increase the trade balance between Israel and Mexico to USD700 million?

There has been a diplomatic relationship between Israel and Mexico since 1952, and this year we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the signing of a FTA between Israel and Mexico. The FTA not only resolves some regulatory issues, but also lowers customs tariffs for specific products between Israel and Mexico. This is the reason why, in 2019, there was USD781 million in trade between Israel and Mexico. Mexico mainly exports electronic machinery, chemicals, rubber, and plastic to Israel and imports mostly machinery, optics, and medical equipment from it. Although USD781 million is a fairly high figure, there is still huge potential to increase it further. We can easily cross the USD800-million limit even though COVID-19 has been fairly rough for both countries.

What strategies and initiatives are you employing as the head of this mission to incentivize more trade between the two countries?

The Israel commercial mission to Mexico is divided into different sectors. We are focusing not only on traditional sectors such as agriculture or water, but also on more advanced sectors such as cyber, retail, and homeland security. At the commercial office, we have four trade officers, each one focused on different sectors. Our main goal is to connect Israeli and Mexican companies commercially. We bring delegations to and from Mexico and facilitate B2B meetings in different conferences, not only in Mexico but also worldwide. For example, in October, we participated in the Agroalimentaria EXPO in Zacatecas. In 2021, we plan to focus not only on traditional sectors such as mining, agriculture, and water, but also on more advanced sectors.

What are Israel's economic strengths when it comes to collaborating with Mexico?

There are a few Israeli companies operating in Mexico and vice versa, for example, ODIS in Baja California, Rivolis in Sinaloa, NETAFIM in Jalisco, MER in CDMX, and so on. One of the main advantages that Israel has is in the high-tech field. For example, cybersecurity is a booming sector in Israel, as is fintech. A high number of Mexican companies, from different sectors are reaching out to us so on a regular basis, so we will scout the relevant technologies for them. For example, there is definitely huge potential in cyber. Mexico suffers from a high number of cyber attacks, and Israeli technology can be of great help.

How are you adapting your mission objectives as head of this mission considering that 2020 was a challenging year?

Our main objective is to show Israeli companies that Mexico is not only a place where one can come for a holiday. Mexico City specifically is one of the biggest hubs that is open to the whole world. There is so much potential and talent here. Our other objective is to expand the different sectors that we are dealing with to feature not only traditional ones, but also the more advanced ones. So far, my team and I are doing a great job because we are fully connected to all the biggest companies and conglomerates that operate in Mexico. We also cooperate well with the federal government and different state governments. What makes Mexico so unique is not only its geographical location between South and North America, but also the different needs of each state within Mexico. For example, in the north there is a need for water solutions while in the south there is a need for agricultural solutions. Mexico City requires more fintech solutions. Each state has a different need, and we are trying to provide those types of solutions or collaborations as much as possible.