x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

UAE and Mexico are united by more than shared ideals

Mexico's foreign minister writes about the common interests of his nation and the UAE.

Mexico and the United Arab Emirates established diplomatic relations nearly four decades ago, in 1975. At the time, that initial step was more a formal acknowledgement of mutual interest than the actual starting point of greater exchanges between our two countries. It was the expression of a shared desire to build a new relationship for our peoples.

Mexico’s interest in the UAE is not hard to understand. By merging to form a state in the early part of the 1970s, the Emirates gave rise to a new international actor. The country is well known for its political stability, internal cohesion and economic prowess. On the basis of its significant oil revenues, the UAE developed a thriving economy, based on market principles, that vigorously promotes science and technology as the key to future prosperity. And it gradually became a relevant international player, both regionally and globally.

Mexico, too, has seen remarkable change over the past 40 years. By all accounts, it is today a significant player in the world economy. The country’s GDP amounts to US$1.2 trillion (Dh4.4tn), making it Latin America’s second largest, fourth in the Americas and 14th in the world.

Together with Germany and the United Kingdom, Mexico is the most open economy among the members of the Group of 20 (G20). It has 10 free-trade agreements with 45 countries, including the United States and Canada, the European Union and Japan, and remains staunchly committed to free trade, capital mobility and productive integration.

Its avant-garde infrastructure for world trade and its strategic location, between North America and Latin America, and between the Atlantic and the Pacific, give Mexico direct access to the most dynamic markets in the world. Among other reasons, this has helped Mexico become one of the top three exporting powers of the G20 in terms of mid- and high-level technology manufactures.

All these economic achievements are underpinned by Mexico’s healthy public finances, an autonomous monetary policy, a flexible exchange rate and a robust financial system which are the basis of its consistent macroeconomic stability.

Economic change has been accompanied by ever stronger political institutions. Today, Mexico is a stable, pluralistic, multiparty democracy. Its institutional strength and political maturity allowed the country to pass major structural reforms that push forward its modernisation process, eliminating barriers that had hindered Mexico’s growth potential. These reforms included a major overhaul of the legal framework governing the labour market, education, telecommunications, economic competition, the financial sector, fiscal policy, social security, the political and electoral rules, the fight against corruption and the energy sector as a whole.

And Mexico has sought to play a more active and constructive role both in international affairs, promoting a closer dialogue with friends and partners both regionally and globally, fostering economic integration, enhancing cooperation for development and working towards a more stable, secure and peaceful international system.

Mexico, like the UAE, is thus a thriving economy, a stable polity and a relevant international actor. But, like the UAE, it is also much more than that: it is an heir to ancient civilisations, with a people proud of their history, and a society eager to engage with other countries and cultures as it promotes its own development.

And although this has not always been acknowledged, the Arab culture has a special place in Mexican history. Alberto Ruy Sánchez, a celebrated Mexican poet and narrator, has remarked that there is “a major Arab imprint in Mexico that most people are not aware of. Indeed, these Arab elements are considered Mexican paradigms.”

Language is a case in point. Hardly a day goes by without a word from Arabic echoing in Mexico, thanks to the vast linguistic legacy left by the Arab culture in Spain, a legacy that was handed over to all Spanish-speaking countries. In expressing a wish, for example, Mexicans all around the country simply say “ojalá”, an unwitting reference to the Arab phrase “in sha’a Allah” (“God willing”). Indeed, it is estimated that nearly a third of all Spanish words have their origin in the Arab language.

So, in many ways, Mexico is closer to the Gulf States than it would appear at first glance. We share aspirations for peace and stability, we have common goals of development and prosperity, and we have a cultural heritage that brings us together.

Admittedly, direct contact over the years has been limited. But there is much that we share in common, and much that we can do in the future to bring our peoples and cultures closer together, to mutual benefit.

In the task of building this new bond between our countries I simply say: “ojalá”.

Jose Antonio Meade is the Mexican minister of foreign affairs