Mexico’s New Face
Jennifer Jeffs on why Canada should embrace Enrique Pena Nieto, Mexico’s new president, and build stronger ties with our NAFTA partner.
Past President of the Canadian International Council (CIC).
Enrique Pena Nieto, Mexico’s new president, commenced his six-year term one week ago, promising extensive changes aimed at augmenting his country’s peace and prosperity. He faces many challenges, including a limited mandate and a politically divided country; the protests at his swearing-in ceremony made headlines around the world. Yet, the Mexican peso’s rise upon his inauguration displays a healthy optimism on the part of the international community regarding Mr. Pena Nieto’s ability to achieve measurable results.
Canada should and could be an important partner for Mexico, bilaterally and as part of wider North American arrangements. With a GDP that is higher than South Korea’s, and an economy that is growing faster than Brazil’s, Mexico is an extremely valuable partner for Canada. Considering their similar status as middle powers living next-door to the world’s superpower, Canada and Mexico have much in common and much on which to build meaningful cooperation.
Unfortunately, the Canada-Mexico relationship remains underdeveloped. With the advent of NAFTA, tremendous advances have been made in strengthening economic ties, both bilateral trade and investment. However, much remains to be done in enhancing the two countries’ relationship with each other, and specifically their cooperation in dealing with the United States, working to convince their neighbour to strengthen the North American region.
Canada must now embrace Mexico, fighting “unhelpful stereotypes” and actively engaging in “Mexico’s moment”. The Canadian government’s intention to drop a prohibitive visa rule for Mexican visitors is a step in the right direction, though Prime Minister Harper has yet to provide the timeline behind his government’s wish for visa-free travel. Besides further strengthening bilateral trade and investment, many other areas for future cooperation exist, especially in food, health, energy, and policing.
Canadians will watch the new-and-reformed Institutional Revolutionary Party’s return to power with great interest, and we must be supportive of the reforms that the new government plans to implement. We appreciate Mr. Pena Nieto’s visit to Canada on the eve of his inauguration and “extend our hand in friendship and support” to Mexico and its new president.