•CORIN ROBERTSON: A Cambridge graduate, Corin Robertson has worked at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office since the start of her professional career. However, Mexico marked her first tenure as UK Ambassador – and what a time to get the posting. At the beginning of her term (2018-2021), she had to quickly adjust to a new Mexican government within weeks of her arrival in the country. Towards the end of her tenure, she and her team had to also adapt to diplomatic life in the times of Covid-19. Perhaps most significant of all, midway through her time in the country, Robertson was tasked with guiding the Mexico-UK relationship post-Brexit. She spoke about these and other issues to Mexico in Europe.
•PEAKS AND TROUGHS: From her two turbulent years in Mexico, Robertson is proudest of fostering the Partnership for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth. This agreement, signed by foreign ministers Marcelo Ebrard and Dominic Raab in 2019, established “a portfolio of cooperation programmes to reduce poverty and promote sustainable and inclusive development, helping to tackle violence against women, human rights defenders and journalists” as well as “promoting female economic empowerment.” When speaking about the more demanding times, Robertson refers to the arduous task of keeping investors’ confidence in the UK post-Brexit as her biggest challenge; before Brexit, the trade relationship between both countries had been protected by an EU-Mexico trade agreement. However, she suggests this may be lessened by the Trade Continuity Agreement signed between Mexico and the UK last December. Further, she’s hopeful that ongoing negotiations on a new, more ambitious, and modern Free Trade Agreement (talks for which are expected to kick-off at the end of the year) will bear fruits.
•AMLO: NATIONAL, NOT FOREIGN VIEW: When asked what her working relationship with the López Obrador administration was like, Robertson firstly notes that “he was very clear from the start that his focus would be domestic, rather than international,” meaning his government’s priorities would be on “improving social welfare…rather than on actively promoting foreign investment and Mexico’s place on the world stage.” Robertson adds that, although the economic recovery from the pandemic shows positive signs, she’s concerned by the broader impacts on the most defenceless individuals in Mexico, noting that the pandemic has had a “disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable members of society.” Further, she adds that the poor “have become poorer, and the vulnerable, more vulnerable,” which has led to an increase in violence against women and minorities.
•“GREEN RECOVERY”: Encouraging investments in renewable energy in Mexico was a particularly personal ambition of Robertson during her tenure as Ambassador. When asked if this was at odds with the current Mexican government’s strategy of mortgaging the country’s future by enormous investments in fossil-fuel projects, Robertson says that, on a federal level, “there is more that Mexico could do, particularly around energy transition and setting higher ambition emissions reduction targets at a national level.” However, she points to state and city-level initiatives, such as Mexico City’s ambition to reach net zero, as examples of worthwhile policies that should be promoted. Further, she is “delighted” to have developed programs around “green finance, fintech, electric vehicles, green infrastructure, energy transition, renewable energy (particularly at state level), and clean growth.” This mirrors the UK’s ambition to be one of the global leaders in the renewable energy sector; Glasgow is set to host the COP26 climate conference later this year.
•“GOOD BUT COULD BE BETTER”: Despite the challenges posed by a post-Brexit trade relationship between Mexico and the UK, Robertson is confident that the relationship between both countries is “stronger than ever.” Although trade between the two countries fell sharply in 2020 to £3.6 billion, mainly due to the pandemic, it steadily increased at a rate of more than 6% per year for the last decade. As another example of the solid economic relationship between the two countries, Robertson points out that, of all Latin American countries, Mexico is the biggest investor in the UK. When asked about the advice she gave to UK companies seeking to invest in Mexico, Robertson was unequivocal: “Go for it!”. She insists to investors that “Mexico is a dynamic and diverse market with enormous potential for growth and offering many opportunities across sectors for UK investors.” However, she notes that challenges remain for foreign investors, with corruption and inequality being the most significant. Overall, she describes the trade relationship between both countries as “good but could be better.” She’s hopeful that a new FTA between the two countries will detonate a new wave of investments across the Atlantic.
•LOOKING AHEAD: When asked about the expectations for the bilateral relationship, Robertson feels “very optimistic,” pointing to the recent change of embassy offices to the heart of Mexico City as a sign of the UK’s commitment to Mexico. Further, on top of the historical links and increasing trade flows, according to Robertson the UK is the second most popular destination for Mexican masters students, and the UK is the third-largest source of tourism for Mexico, trends she hopes will continue to increase. However, she notes that challenges lie ahead for Mexico. Robertson is particularly concerned by media freedom and “the protection of human rights defenders and journalists,” issues for which she was especially vocal during her tenure and on which the UK wants to see progress; according to Reporters Without Borders, Mexico is the country where most journalists are killed every year, ahead of war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan. However, referring to the UK as a willing partner, Robertson concludes that “there is so much potential for us to do more together, and I’m in no doubt at all that we will.”
•FRANCE: Le Monde, the Parisian daily, carried a piece on the “historic” decision taken by the Mexican Supreme Court to decriminalise abortion. In the article, judge Luis María Aguilar is quoted: “never again will a woman have to be prosecuted for having an abortion.”
•RUSSIA: Komsomolskaya Pravda, Russia’s most popular tabloid, featured a short piece on the bizarre auction by the Mexican Institute to Return to the People What Was Stolen (INDEP, by its Mexican initials) in which a house formerly owned by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is up for sale. The auction is due to be held on September 15th, the anniversary of the Mexican independence.
•ITALY: A series of articles and videos on the magnitude 7 earthquake that shook the resort town of Acapulco, Guerrero, and the surrounding states appeared in the Italian daily La Repubblica.
•IRELAND: The Irish Times published a short history of the Mexican Association, a secret society of which an Irish lawyer was member in the early 19th century “committed to wresting Mexico from Spanish rule” with the aim of enhancing the overseas possessions of the British Empire. The group was eventually found out, dismantled, and tried.
*Jerónimo González is a writer and analyst of international affairs based in London, where he is a candidate for the Masters in Public Policy and Management at King’s College London. He covers issues regarding migration, trade and technology. Twitter: @JeronimoGCC