A Mexican Partner

Jennifer Jeffs reports on Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa's recent visit to Canada.
By: /
June 7, 2012

Patricia Espinosa, Mexico’s foreign minister, was in Ottawa last week to meet with Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird on the margins of the Canada-Mexico Partnership (CMP) meeting. Accompanied by Mexico’s sub-secretary for North American Affairs, Julian Ventura, Espinosa’s presence in Ottawa at that time significantly raised the profile of the meeting and provided a high-level endorsement of the CMP’s goals.

The CMP is an annual meeting of several bilateral working groups, including Agri-business; Energy; Environment and Forestry; Housing and Sustainable Communities; Human Capital; Labour Mobility; and Trade, Investment, and Innovation. Minister Espinosa stressed the opportunities offered by strengthening bilateral ties, focusing on identifying private-sector synergies, expanding temporary-worker programs, launching a youth-mobility program, and, perhaps most importantly, “projecting our partnership globally and regionally” by publicizing our countries’ “shared core values” in universal human rights, the rule of law, and democratic governance.

The CMP meeting, which convenes a variety of communities such as poultry farmers, women’s-health advocates, and community-based groups, is doing important bilateral work. Perhaps just as importantly, though, it is also providing the people-to-people contact that allows Canadians to step away from the pictures they have of Mexico as either a series of beaches and holiday destinations or a country mired in violent drug wars. To the delight of Mexico-watchers, The Globe and Mail has also taken to pointing out the cosmopolitan nature of the country, the rapidly growing middle class, and the myriadbenefits to Canada of expanding and deepening ties between our two countries. Mexican reforms are proceeding apace, often with Canadian support. Trade and investment ties between Canada and Mexico have grown exponentially since the signing of NAFTA, and the growing Mexican economy is on track to be larger than Canada’s in a matter of a few years.

Mexico continues to confront many challenges, but if its reforms (including policing and judicial reforms that will aid in the struggles with the drug cartels) can keep pace with its economic development, this resource-rich, financially stable country with a relatively young population holds tremendous promise – for itself, for Canada-Mexico relations, and for North American competitiveness overall.

Given the extraordinary line-up of international meetings taking place in Mexico in the coming weeks, it is certainly significant that Minister Espinosa took the time from her very busy schedule to join a small but hearty group of Canada-Mexico enthusiasts in Ottawa. Also fortuitous was her presence at a breakfast meeting to launch the most recent Canada Among Nations volume, dedicated to Canada’s relationship with Mexico.

Several of the authors – myself included – gathered to hear the minister’s remarks and to tell the assembled guests about some of the partnership themes in the book in areas such as energy, security, sustainable development, and research collaborations, all of which reflect the interests of the CMP working groups. These on-the-ground groups are proceeding along very pragmatic and practical lines. High-level recognition of those efforts from people like Baird and Espinosa is a hopeful sign of progress.

Photo courtesy of Reuters