Category: February 2014
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Foreign Minister José Antonio Meade Kuribreña.- Good day, and thank you very much Claudia for the presentation. Many thanks to Jaime for having invited me.

Not the same the three Musketeers 20 years later, many of us Musketeers are here at the table that Jaime is now chairing. And thank you all for being here today, of course, thanks for inviting me to inaugurate this important forum.

The Mexican Council on Foreign Relations is undoubtedly, in this space of 20 years of remembrance, the ideal forum in which to reflect on how we are doing and where we should go as we move forward. It comprises a diverse, plural membership, a civil partnership that has shown by far the ability to bring together entrepreneurs, academics, diplomats and opinion leaders from various fields of our society to analyze the status and evolution of international issues of interest to our nation.

So it has done since its founding over 12 years ago under the capable leadership of its presidents, first Ambassador Andrés Rozental, then Fernando Solana, Enrique Berruga and now, brilliantly, Jaime Zabludovsky.

Of course each and every member of COMEXI, is an expert on various topics in various fields of international relations, and in part that's the secret of its success. Its publications, the growing involvement of partners in the media, and in general its contribution to creating a better understanding of the international reality and the current situation are tasks that we must acknowledge and for which we must thank COMEXI.

Mexico, 20 years after NAFTA, will continue progressing to build and revitalize the idea of ​​a dynamic and prosperous North America. That is why at the 20th anniversary of the entry into force of NAFTA, we should ask ourselves about both the achievements of and the challenges facing this treaty today.

And here the reasoning is simple: when many who are gathered here met over 20 years ago to start negotiating a treaty that took shape 20 years ago, the idea was bold.

Certainly there were three elements that indicated that the treaty could have spaces for serious success. There was of course a geographical reality; North America as a geographic space is an important space, due to the sizeable percentage of terra firma involved, the percentage of the world's coastlines, its variety and the importance of its natural resources, and so on.

It was a sizeable population, sizeable if you added the United States, Mexico and Canada together, and also at that time we shared the value of free trade as a central axis of development policy.

But it was not a sure bet. In fact, as Jaime Serra once said and Jaime Zabludovsky recalled today, when the idea first came up at the table, the idea that in international trade it would be worth making an effort to integrate Canada, the United States and Mexico, many thought it would be best to concentrate efforts in multilateral spaces, and conclude and give greater impetus to the Uruguay Round.

Bob Pastor thought then that the concept of North America involved three countries jointly undertaking the task of designing a continental framework, a genuine partnership that goes beyond rhetoric to a clear definition of a community in North America.

We are far from this aspiration of the North American idea, but the Free Trade Agreement was a very important first step.

Looking back 20 years, that risk was taken, the bet was made and it entered into force. It has given very good results. Many of them were described eloquently by Jaime Zabludovsky but I’ll recap a few: trade multiplied threefold, said Jaime, for the first time exceeding one trillion dollars last year. We have said in other forums, more than a million dollars traded each minute just with the U.S., two million dollars every minute when you integrate or look at North America as a whole.

But a trade that has very different characteristics than we could have imagined 20 years ago. A trade that has made Mexico and North America as a whole, one of the leading players in the field of supply chains of advanced industries. Today, a V8 Jeep has a fuselage that is made in Querétaro, engine made ​​in Canada and is assembled in the United States.

A vigorous trade in intermediate goods, which end up crossing our borders several times, and this explains in large part our advantage. Jaime Zabludovsky said: "Of every peso that is exported from Mexico, 40 cents are acquired, for example, in the United States."

When electrical or optical equipment is exported from Japan, only 3.3% benefits Mexico, the United States or Canada. When electronic goods are exported from Germany, only 2.6% benefits this region. In contrast, when electrical or optical goods are exported from Canada, 12% has North American content and when it’s made in the United States, 20% of the added value is explained by and is generated in Mexico.

Today, a few days before holding the North American Leaders’ Summit, it would seem much more obvious and much easier to sell the idea of ​​North America. However, we’ve found it difficult to get people to appreciate this concept, to assess it and invest in it. People turn, rightly, toward Asia. People are excited, and rightly so, by what is happening in Latin America, and within Latin America, in the Pacific Alliance.

But if we stop with 20 years of perspective, and see that 20 years ago we had geography, we had population and there was an ideal, the argument today in favour of North America is much clearer. If we focus only on the population, a population with different characteristics, we are not only a larger population in 2014, we will be much larger in 2050. But we see a dynamic population where Mexico brings youth to our North America, and the Hispanic population brings demographic dynamism to the United States and Canada. It is a much more skilled population, a population that has proven to have capabilities to succeed in global markets.

Our geography is also different. 20 years after signing the NAFTA, when people review the geography of North America, they find all investment oriented toward trade. They find a geography rich in roadways, rich in railways, abundant in ports, all designed to attract and foster value chains. A geography therefore implying a much greater future advantage as compared to the geography that we had 20 years ago.

But we have many more elements than were present 20 years ago: we have a sound financial system in the three countries; stable, sound macroeconomic policies in the three countries, and shared values, not only in free trade, a deeply committed democratic region with the rule of law, committed to human rights, a region with an energy profile, that we couldn’t have imagined, not 20 years ago, not even 5.

If you take all these elements together, what was then a risk is today a must. The argument in favor of America makes much more sense today than it did 20 years ago.

I conclude by bearing witness to those who 20 years ago saw in North America a space to build the future. They took a risk, made a bet. That bet today has proven itself. It was successful and has been fundamental in changing the face of North America. And the elements we have today in front of us make the argument for a prosperous and dynamic North America even more current, efforts and ideas that we will seek to position at the North American Leaders’ Summit in the days to come.

Thank you very much for having invited me.