Bill Frenzel,

Bill Daley,

Dear friends of Bill….and Bill,

Dear friends of Mexico,

It is truly an honor to preside over this ceremony, where the Government of Mexico will confer upon William Eldridge Frenzel and William Michael Daley, whom we all know as Bill Frenzel and Bill Daley, with the highest recognition we grant to a foreign national: the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle.

It is difficult to overstate the extent to which we owe the deep and dynamic ties between Mexico and the U.S., which we now often take for granted, to the true dedication, commitment and selfless leadership of Bill Frenzel and Bill Daley.

When I talk about the NAFTA negotiations, I sometimes start by saying “For those of you in the audience who may be too young to remember…..” I believe I can skip that line on this occasion, since many of us actually participated in those negotiations!

There was no precedent for such a far-reaching trade agreement between three countries. It liberalized tariffs on practically all goods, including agricultural products; it included trade in services, and provisions on investment, intellectual property and government procurement. By its scope and coverage NAFTA was, in fact, the most advanced free trade agreement in the world.

We all know that NAFTA was controversial. Negotiations began during the administration of George H.W. Bush, and the 1992 United States presidential campaign put them at the center of the debate given the adverse economic environment at the time and rising protectionist pressures. We need only recall the presidential debate between George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ross Perot, who said NAFTA would create a “giant sucking sound” of US jobs lost to Mexico because of wage differentials between the countries.

In October 1992, then-Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton, announced his support for NAFTA.  Once elected, he had to gain Democratic support without alienating his labor and environmental constituencies, while garnering business support and the Republican votes needed to secure NAFTA passage.

Given the importance of bipartisan support for NAFTA, President Clinton could not have picked two better people to spearhead this task: Bill Frenzel and Bill Daley.

As a former congressman from Minnesota and member of the Republican Party, Bill Frenzel was tasked with consolidating support for NAFTA among his former colleagues and facilitating interaction between Republicans and the White House.

His unmatched skill and grace as a responsible negotiator, his expertise on US economic matters and on international trade issues, and his credibility as former spokesperson for economic affairs of the Republican Party and as a congressional representative to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, GATT), made him a knowledgeable and trusted power broker during this crucial time

In August 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed Bill Daley as Chairman of the Working Group of the Administration for NAFTA (he was the “NAFTA Czar”). With his deep experience in both business and politics, he successfully navigated a very complex political landscape to help secure NAFTA ratification. It was no walk in the park, to say the least!

Daley subsequently became Secretary of Commerce of the United States, where he continued to be an ally of Mexico, promoting bilateral trade and investment relations.

Today, twenty years after the contentious passage and enactment of the Agreement, naysayers on both sides of the border have been proved wrong:

  • Trade within the region grew from $296 billion dollars in 1993, to over one trillion dollars in 2013.
  • Last year only, Mexico and the US traded over 500 billion dollars, which translates into approximately 1 million dollars per minute.
  • Mexico is the second largest market for US exports, and that “giant sucking sound” Mr. Perot thought we would hear is now the sound of Mexicans consuming US products.
  • The US Chamber of Commerce estimates that 6 million American jobs depend on trade with Mexico.
  • The US exports more to Mexico than to the BRICs combined, to Japan and China combined, or to France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK taken together.

But we not only trade intensively with each other, we also produce goods jointly through integrated production and supply chains. At 40%, U.S. imports from Mexico have 10 times more U.S. value-added than those from China.

The future is even more promising:

  • In 2050 the US and Canada will have the world’s highest per capita GDP. Mexico will rank as the seventh largest economy in the world and will lead Latin American in per capita GDP (PricewaterhouseCoopers).
  • In 2050, the North American region will have about 530 million inhabitants, which is more than the European Union.
  • By 2035 North America will be a net oil exporter, accounting for 6% of global energy exports, and by 2017 the region could become a net exporter of natural gas (BP Energy Outlook).

North America, with its combination of geography, demographics, energy resources and capabilities, has all it needs to become the most competitive region in the world.

The Order of the Aztec Eagle is being awarded for their key role in helping secure NAFTA ratification in the US, which has positively affected the lives of millions of Mexicans and Americans and set the basis for the future economic prospects of the region.

But perhaps their most lasting impact is through the example they set for us all in terms of leadership and bipartisanship. The effort, responsibility, and dedication shown by these two men during this critical process stand as a historic lesson for what it means to engage in public service. It also serves as a reminder that it is through responsible – and yes, contentious – bipartisan leadership and collaboration that this country has achieved its most impressive feats.

Now we must follow in their footsteps to turn the still untapped potential of deeper economic integration between our two countries into a reality.

Bill Frenzel, Bill Daley: you are true leaders. On behalf of the Mexican Government I am honored to confer upon you the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle.