Ed Royce, Representative and Chairman, House Committee on Foreign Affairs;
Deval Patrick, Governor of Massachusetts
Ambassador John Negroponte, Chairman of the Council of the Americas;
Susan Segal, President and CEO of the Council of the Americas;
Representatives, Ambassadors, Business executives,
Welcome to the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington D.C. I wonder how many of you need an introduction to this building. I see a lot of familiar faces here today….
I would like to thank the Council of the Americas for their effort in putting this conference together and to express my personal enthusiasm for this year’s program. I think the line-up speaks for itself: the presence of Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Commerce, Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security and Deval Patrick, Governor of Massachusetts, all of whom have traveled to Mexico in the last few months and have shown support for the region as a whole, will really contribute to the conversations that will be held tomorrow. And of course, Secretary John Kerry, who is gracious enough to host tomorrow’s program. To Roberta, John, Susan, and Eric, what can I say? You are the usual suspects, and I can’t thank you enough for your sustained and tireless efforts.
People who know the Americas know the huge role that soccer plays for us in Latin America, and you probably know that the World Cup is on its way. You might also know that, in the history of the event, eight different countries have won the World Cup (well, nine countries after Mexico wins it this year). You might be surprised to hear that Mexico buys more goods from the United States than all the eight countries that have won the FIFA World Cup combined (Argentina, Brazil, England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Uruguay). In fact, Mexico is the top export destination of four US states (Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas), and Mexico is the second largest export destination of 22 other states.
While the goal of NAFTA some twenty years ago was the establishment of a free trade area, something more significant has happened—North America has become a region of shared production. We are jointly producing goods through the deeply integrated production and supply chains that have developed as the result of the clear, stable and transparent rules established by NAFTA, and we are increasingly engaging with the global economy as one region.
Bombardier, a Canadian Aerospace company, is a good example of an integrated North American operation where design and manufacturing are shared among the three countries. Bombardier Aerospace manufactures the fuselage and cockpit of the Learjet 85 business jet in Querétaro, which uses Pratt & Whitney turbines made in Quebec, and final assembly takes place in Wichita, Kansas.
You are probably aware that the US is the main foreign investor in Mexico. From 1999 to 2013, Mexico received 168 billion dollars in US investment, 48% of the total FDI for that period, but you may not know that Mexican investment in the US is also increasing. Mexican FDI in the US was over 20 billion during the same period, and 40 of the 50 US states host at least one location of a world-class Mexican-based company like CEMEX, GRUMA, Grupo Alfa, Grupo México, Lala, Mexichem and Bimbo.
North American integration is a reality, and the competitiveness of our region depends on it, but if we are to take North American economic integration and competitiveness to the next level, we need to have much stronger and proactive engagement between the public and private sector, and to truly think and act regionally.
The world economy has changed radically in the last two decades: services loom much larger now, as does e-commerce, and advanced manufacturing (including 3-D printing) means that a highly skilled workforce, streamlined regulations and vastly improved infrastructure and logistics at border crossings and throughout North America will be critically important to take full advantage of our economic complementarity. And a contemporary vision for North America needs to position its border in the Darien, and not in the Suchiate. It must include Central America.
Throughout the continent, another area that deserves special attention is education. Not only is it the driver of growth and a key factor in overcoming poverty and income inequality, it is also a tool through which Mexico, the United States and all of our Nations can come closer together. It is a vehicle to forge long-lasting relationships between our people and to ensure our prosperity and well-being.
Unfortunately, today, the level of academic, technical and scientific exchange has not kept up with the intensity of its trade and political relationship. To take Mexico and the United States as an example, my country, with 116 million inhabitants, only sends 14,000 students a year to the United States, and 4,000 U.S. students take courses for academic credit in Mexico each year. Just to compare, South Korea, with a population of 49 million, sends 72,000 students to the United States every year.
In response to these low numbers, Mexico and the United Stated have created the Bilateral Forum on Higher Education, Innovation and Research, for the purpose of developing a shared vision for educational cooperation, with a view to expanding economic opportunities in both countries, and a workforce attuned to the needs of the 21st century economy.
Along those lines, Governor Patrick’s recent trip to Mexico and his ongoing promotion of the relationship of his state with our country is precisely the commitment we cherish and wish to build with all of our partners in the US.
We must, can and will do much better in terms of bilateral academic and educational engagement. The entire region would benefit from enhanced exchanges between all of our countries. We need to know each other better; we need to take advantage of our mutual strengths; we need to build a strong and educated workforce, and we need to provide these opportunities for all across our region.
In Spanish we have two different words for the verb “to be”. So, Mexico is, “está”, in North America, but is, “es”, Latin America. And in that sense, I cannot miss the opportunity to say a few words about the Pacific Alliance, a very ambitious, and at the same time very pragmatic initiative among like-minded countries. It is a new, results-oriented and market-friendly model of open regionalism. Currently Chile, Colombia, Peru and Mexico are the Pacific Alliance members, but it is expected that soon Costa Rica and Panama will join. Just last April 3rd, Mexico and Panama signed a Free Trade Agreement that will enter to force once approved by the legislative branch of each country.
It is exciting to observe how The Americas are building networks and constructing frameworks to unleash the regional potential. We would not be able to do this without the sustained engagement of the private sector and of organizations like the Council of the Americas.
The late Bob Pastor –founder of the Center for North American Studies at American University and a friend of many of us here -- once said that one should not pursue aims because they are feasible, but rather because they are desirable. In forging the future of the Americas, we are making feasible what is desirable.