Hong Kong will find, in an open and connected Mexico, an able partner in trade
Alicia Buenrostro Massieu surveys the improvements as a result of radical reforms in the Latin American nation, bringing more opportunities for cooperation
As my tour of duty as consul general of Mexico in Hong Kong ends, I think about the changes I’ve noticed over the past five years, both locally and in the Mexico-Hong Kong relationship. I’ve learnt how important this SAR still is for the region and China. A financial hub, a platform for international trade companies, a new centre for innovation and technology, and a global connector of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative. A city always on the move, with core values of transparency, rule of law, and a full range of freedoms that redefine it politically on the streets every day.
In 2016, Mexico celebrates its 50th anniversary in Hong Kong. Both have evolved, deepening their ties, especially in the past few years. In the 1980s, Mexico was very much closed to the world. Today, its exports account for about 80 per cent of gross domestic product.
In the 1990s, Mexico was transformed politically, securing a democratic system with transparent elections and checks and balances in government. After a decade of political reshuffle, all forces came together in a historical pact to approve 18 structural reforms, changing the course of the country’s economic and political history.
For the first time in almost a century, international companies were allowed to bid in the oil and gas sector. With a new Competition Commission, the playing field was levelled and new broadcasting, internet and phone companies have entered the market. Costs of services for industries are much lower, and credit for small businesses is booming. This new dynamic is showing results: entrepreneurial hubs and technology start-ups are opening up daily.
Today, the Mexican economy is as open and connected as possible, with free trade access to 46 countries, one billion consumers, and 60 per cent of the world’s GDP. Trade with Hong Kong is evidence of this evolution from a commodity- to a manufacturing-oriented export economy, based on innovation. Out of all exports to Hong Kong, 7 per cent is food, the rest are computers, telecommunications equipment and office machine accessories. With 130 million consumers, the Mexican market is solid and attractive. We are the biggest buyer of Hong Kong exports in Latin America, and our bilateral trade increased 600-fold in 10 years.
We have reshaped the bilateral relationship with unprecedented high-level visits by both sides, along with six missions of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council and InvestHK to Mexico. For the first time in 2013, a Mexican president paid an official visit to Hong Kong, and Greg So Kam-leung was the first Hong Kong cabinet member to visit my country. We have signed agreements in the avoidance of double taxation, customs, intellectual property, and acceleration of small and medium-sized enterprises. Opportunities for the private sector have opened up, and more will arise.
Mexico is opening all around. Its business-friendly environment helped maintain a steady inflow of foreign direct investment, outpacing many emerging markets from the last investment boom.
We still have many challenges ahead, but steps are being taken to tackle them. The new National Anti-corruption System, along with a major overhaul of the judicial system that is taking place, aims to improve public security and the administration of justice in Mexico, creating more transparent and meritocratic institutions, and will translate into greater access to justice, better law enforcement and tougher security forces to combat organised crime.
Our net emigration is now zero, and the days of massive outflows of Mexicans to the United States are behind us. More Mexicans are returning home than leaving, and the ones that stayed rooted abroad, mainly in North America, contribute hugely to those economies – Mexican Americans account for 8 per cent of the US GDP.
Wrong perceptions about Mexico abound, but hard work pays off. Mexico is projected to become the seventh-largest economy in the world in 15 years. An unstoppable technology-based manufacturing powerhouse with an increasing share of global trade, sound demographics, increased equality and social inclusion, a more active civil society, and an enhanced rule of law – this is the Mexico we’re building. This is the partner reaching out enthusiastically to Hong Kong, a city to whose people I bid a warm hasta pronto.
Ambassador Alicia Buenrostro Massieu is the consul general of Mexico to Hong Kong and Macau