Good evening, Ladies, and welcome to the Mexican Cultural Institute. Thank you for inviting me to speak with you. And a special thank you to Diana Negroponte and to all of those involved in organizing this event. As Margaret Thatcher once famously stated, "If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.” You appear to have followed her advice here this evening.
I have a twenty two year old daughter who can run circles around me when we discuss women´s issues. I guess it´s because she has read a lot more than me on the subject, and she understands things that I am only starting to learn. But raising her and living in a modern world have strengthened my conviction that we need to continue to work tirelessly to ensure women achieve equality and access to justice and prosperity.
I was talking to my team recently about Mexico’s Banco Compartamos, which happens to be a great example of both Margaret Thatcher's view of women as doers, because most of the bank’s customers are entrepreneurial women, and of improved access to prosperity, because most of them had no access to working capital loans before becoming Banco Compartamos customers. In 22 years, Banco Compartamos has become the largest microfinance bank in Latin America, serving more than 2 million 400 thousand customers. Its compliance rate is 99.7 percent, higher than any other commercial bank in Mexico, and I think it serves as a wonderful model for what can happen when we empower women in our economies.
At any rate, I am sure that you all can tell me much more about women's issues than I can tell you, so I will get to my thoughts on the partnership between Mexico and the United States.
There may not be another bilateral relationship in the world as complicated the relationship between Mexico and the United States, and there may not be two countries that are more important to one another. We share a border that is two-thousand miles long; we trade more than a billion dollars’ worth of goods and services per day; we share a complex history that still continues to shape our current reality; and above all, we share a people.
The US-Mexico relationship has evolved considerably over the past few decades. Twenty years ago, NAFTA came into effect and those years have transformed the way our countries interact with each other. Thanks to NAFTA, which removed trade barriers facilitating cross-border movement of goods and services, and provided new investment opportunities, a deeper economic integration in the region has taken place. While the goal of NAFTA was the establishment of a free trade area, something more has happened—North America has become a region of shared production. The US, Mexico, and Canada are building things together and competing as one unit in the global economy.
The future competitiveness of our region now depends heavily on our ability to enable the full economic potential of regional production chains. North America represents a unique model of integration in which the locations of the three constituent countries are closely linked, and one whose development offers enormous potential for growth and increased prosperity in each of our countries.
2014 is a perfect time to reimagine North America as a space where our three countries work together, not only because it happens to be the twentieth anniversary of NAFTA, but because of the broad reforms enacted in Mexico last year. Energy reform is obviously of particular importance because North America's energy abundance will be one of the keys to the region's success and a space where we can join our complimentary forces with a will to continue building a prosperous future based on sustained, inclusive and equitable growth.
NAFTA laid the ground work, but now both our countries must recognize where it has led us and what we must do to build on its successes. I believe that our leaders understand that when we decide to meet the challenges of globalization together, we will do so from a position of far greater strength. That recognition is at the core of the US-Mexico High Level Economic Dialogue that was launched this past September during Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Mexico in an effort to advance the strategic economic and commercial priorities that will underpin economic growth in the coming years. It is a very good sign that both our governments understand that we must continue to build on the foundation that we laid some twenty years ago. That means the future of the bilateral relationship looks bright, which is as it should be, because neither of us can afford to have it any other way.
Thank you for your time and I will be happy to take your questions and comments.