•EU AND MEXICO: In 2020, the EU was Mexico’s second largest export market, with goods and services sold to member states being worth upwards of €30 billion; Mexican imports from the EU were worth some €20 billion, resulting in a trade surplus of just over €10 billion. The trade between Mexico and the EU has grown quickly since the 1997 signing of the Global Agreement for Economic Partnership, Political Coordination and Cooperation. The modernization of this accord was agreed to in principle in 2018 and negotiations were concluded in 2020. It is expected to be ratified in the near future. The new EU Ambassador to Mexico, Gautier Mignot, has set his sights on bringing this project to fruition. The good will in EU-Mexico relations could benefit from the union’s solid support for Mexico during the pandemic (via deliveries of Covid-19 vaccines) but challenges remain, particularly on the investment side.
•GAUTIER MIGNOT: The recently appointed Ambassador (he took over in mid-April) has spent much of the past three decades working in the French and EU diplomatic services; his most recent appointment was as France’s ambassador to Colombia, a post which he held until 2020. Mignot, who had previously spent time in Mexico in the late 1990s, is particularly passionate about two issues: Latin America, and the further integration of Europe. No wonder, then, that his ambition as Ambassador is to encourage the EU and Mexico to build greater economic ties, as well as to work together on environmental conservation, the defence of human rights and the further strengthening of democracy in the country. He spoke to Mexico Today on these and other issues.
•DIAGNOSTIC: Mignot sounds enthusiastic about being back in ‘eternal Mexico,’ a country he admires for its ‘landscapes, culture and cuisine’. After nearly two decades since he last lived there, he is pleased to see a ‘democracy that works and one in which people believe in, as was witnessed on June the 6th,’ when the country held midterm elections. He also highlights Mexico’s recent progress in its vaccination drive, for which the EU’s deliveries have been crucial, as another source of optimism; according to the Ambassador, 40% of the doses available in Mexico have come from EU contribution schemes. The Ambassador, however, sees worrying signs, specially in the areas of ‘human rights, justice, inequality and the environment, where Mexico has a particular weakness’. It is on these areas where he sees great opportunities for improvement.
•PANDEMIC: The Ambassador believes that ‘Mexico and the EU have been great allies in getting vaccines to those most in need’. This is very much in keeping with the EU’s strategy that there should be ‘no privileges to friend countries’ and where the thinking is that the pandemic will not be over anywhere until it’s over everywhere. Mignot is confident that the efforts made by COVAX, the worldwide initiative aimed at distributing vaccines to developing nations, will be ‘hugely ramped up’ in the coming weeks, to the further benefit Mexico; last month, Mexico received 2.2 million doses from this initiative. Thus, he was surprised by the recent article published by Juan Ramón de la Fuente, Permanent Representative of Mexico to the UN, in which de la Fuente claims that the EU has ‘hoarded and profited’ with the vaccines. Mignot claims it is a ‘huge misunderstanding’ and turns to the Mexican Foreign Ministry’s pubic displays of gratitude towards the EU as evidence.
•INVESTMENT: ‘Mexico is a very attractive place to invest in, specially for European countries’ says the Ambassador, citing the country’s infrastructure and its close ties to the world’s economic powerhouses, both in the Americas and Asia, as motives for his optimism. He believes investors are aware of these and other positive signs. However, he considers that Europe’s ‘high quality investments’ in Mexico, which generate thousands of ‘high paying jobs’ and a significant windfall in taxes, could be threatened by the ‘loss of legal stability’ caused by sudden shifts in rules and regulations. He notes that investors ‘need to be respected, spoken to and heard from’. The risk of not doing so is that ‘they could go elsewhere’. Investors know that ‘there are many opportunities in the world,’ he adds.
•AGREEMENT: Although the Ambassador does not foresee ‘tensions or difficulties arising’ in the ratification of the Global Agreement due to the current Mexican government’s protectionist, pro-fossil-fuel energy policy, he maintains that the problem of climate change is much larger than that. In his view, it is humanity’s future that’s at stake; it is evident from the conversation that this issue is particularly important to him. To avoid the imminent threats posed by climate change, Mignot encourages Mexico to join the developed world’s move towards greater environmental protection. ‘Mexico has been a historic defender of the environment’ but it needs to ‘increase its efforts’; if it doesn’t, it risks ‘looking bad’ at the UN’s Climate Change Conference (COP26) due to take place later this year in Glasgow.
•PEACE AND HUMAN RIGHTS: As mentioned earlier, the promotion of peace and the defence of human rights are among the Ambassador’s top priorities. When it comes to addressing these issues, he says that Mexico, at both a federal and a local level, can count on the ‘EU as a ready friend,’ amicability which the Ambassador feels has been reciprocated by the Mexican government. Within the broad spectrum of security challenges the country faces, ‘not all of them the sole responsibility of Mexico,’ Mignot emphasises that he will seek to increase the visibility of the attacks ‘against human rights defenders and journalists’. However, he makes clear that his role ‘is not to give out lessons’. Rather, he believes that the ‘EU and Mexico are made to work together’.
•U.K.: The Financial Times published an editorial calling on president López Obrador and his government to seize the golden economic opportunity “offered by strong US growth and the nearshoring of production from China”. The paper’s editorial board urged the president to rid himself of his “anti-business rhetoric” and his “attacks on institutions”.
•GERMANY: Die Zeit, the Hamburg-based daily, carried an article on Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s intention to continue construction of President Trump’s border wall, although “fundamental doubts about the feasibility of the project remain”. The article goes on to say that Abbott will seek to grant state police the legal faculties to arrest migrants, a task historically within the exclusive domain of federal authorities.
•FRANCE: Le Figaro, the French newspaper, had a piece on the murder of Mexican journalist Javier Valdez. More than 4 years after the killing of Valdez, a culprit has finally been found. Valdez, from the Northwestern state of Sinaloa, was a collaborator of Agence France-Presse, the international news agency headquartered in Paris.
•AWARD: Valeria Luiselli, the Mexican novelist who’s written profusely about the plight of Mexican and Central American migrants, won the prestigious 2021 Dublin Literary Award for her novel, Lost Children Archive. Along with the recognition, comes €100,000, “the world’s largest prize for a single novel published in English”. The story was first reported by the Irish paper, The Independent.