Mexico-UK Cooperation: A Commitment to Sustainable GrowthBy Alessa Flores | Tue, 10/20/2020 - 09:27
Q: What public-private cooperation projects are in the pipeline between the UK and Mexico and how is the embassy supporting them?
A: Thanks to the Partnership for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth pact signed last year, the UK and Mexico are working together to implement projects that reduce poverty, increase well-being, encourage gender equality and open new markets and business opportunities.
We were the first two nations to sign the Climate Change Act into law. Through The International Climate Fund in Mexico, we are coordinating a large portfolio of work that, through our shared objectives, seeks again to lead the way in the fight against climate change, including with the private sector and businesses, as we look toward COP26 next year.
As part of our efforts to promote inclusive economic development in Mexico, our Future Cities program looks to improve and support urban development in Mexico’s cities to promote safer, resilient and more sustainable mobility services for citizens, particularly for women and girls. This program is taking place in several Mexican cities: Mexico City, Monterrey, Guadalajara, Queretaro and Hermosillo. It is coordinated in conjunction with an alliance of partners from the private sector (WRI, STEER, ITDP, C230, PwC Mexico), and we are looking forward to seeing the positive impacts of this project in the medium and long term.
In terms of health, through our Better Health program, which was launched last year, we are supporting Mexico to develop public health policies that improve healthcare by promoting a more inclusive and evidence-based response to the growing challenge of prevention, treatment and management of noncommunicable diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. We are working closely with the Ministry of Health and private sector stakeholders to exchange experiences and lessons learned in order to provide technical assistance and training to nursing personnel, mainly focused on primary care carried out in the UK’s National Health System (NHS). We are especially focusing on adapting this program to our current circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Q: Cooperation in energy matters between Mexico and the UK is one of the most important issues between both countries. What are some successful initiatives?
A: The energy sector has been a key contributor to the economic growth of Mexico and the United Kingdom. The UK has reaffirmed its commitment to energy matters with Mexican partners through our Department for International Trade (DIT). In 2019, the cities of Aberdeen and Carmen signed an MOU to strengthen business cooperation, as well as promoting the transfer of technology and knowledge and best practices to increase investment opportunities in the energy sector between Scotland and Campeche.
This year, we have engaged in a series of webinars related to COVID-19 with the energy sector. We organized an online event with Mexico’s CENACE and the UK’s Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (OFGEM), where we stressed the importance of sharing experiences in managing the electrical network in times of COVID-19 to secure continuity of essential services for the populations of both countries.
As president of COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference in 2021, promoting clean growth, and a green economic recovery following the pandemic will be a top priority for the UK government, and for our energy work here in Mexico. Through our International Climate Finance program and our Prosperity Fund Energy and Future Cities programs, we are supporting work on electro-mobility, sustainable cities and renewable energy, as well as developing the capabilities of the workforce, SMEs and regulatory bodies to support a just and sustainable transition toward a low carbon economy.
Q: In August 2019, the Mexican Foreign Ministry and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office signed the "Alliance for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth." What has been the progress of this cooperation?
A: Mexico is a strong partner for the UK. Since the foreign secretary visited Mexico last summer and signed the Partnership for Sustainable and Inclusive Growth, we have been building up and strengthening political dialogue, economic links and wide-ranging cooperation between the UK and Mexico through an investment up to £250 million (US$322 million) in cooperation programs over the period 2019-2023. We have identified key economic priorities, such as free trade, and are promoting investment in areas such as advanced manufacturing, energy efficiency, renewable energy, agri-tech and services. We continue to work together to promote social development and inclusion.
Q: The UK is the third-largest source of tourism to Mexico. What cooperation schemes does the UK have with Mexico to boost tourism between both countries?
A: Tourism between the United Kingdom and Mexico represents one important pillar of our economic and cultural links. We are proud that the UK is the third-most important source of tourism for Mexico, and, every year, we also welcome many Mexican visitors to the UK. Last year, the UK was the guest of honor at the first Tianguis de Pueblos Mágicos fair, held in October in Pachuca, Hidalgo. This event, which brought together important stakeholders of the industry and representatives from Mexico’s most iconic communities and tourist spots, allowed us to learn more about the wide diversity and cultural richness of Mexico. During this event, we collaborated closely with the Ministry of Tourism (SECTUR) and the local authorities of Hidalgo to create a UK-influenced pavilion at the fair. This event surpassed expectations in terms of attendance and economic results. At the same time, it boosted the UK’s visibility as a tourist destination.
I am also proud that we are working with the Mexican authorities to tackle the sargassum problem that is having a negative effect on the tourism sector in Mexico. In July, our Newton Fund team met with SEMAR, CONACYT and the Senate’s Science and Technology Committee. We are also funding a great project, led by the University of Nottingham with the UK Space Agency, that will use satellite technology to develop a real-time Sargassum monitoring service for Mexico’s Caribbean Coast and help the authorities deal with the affected areas quickly and efficiently, minimizing the impact on the local economy.
Q: In the post-Brexit reality, what are the opportunities in terms of commercial cooperation that will open up between Mexico and the UK?
A: While trade between Mexico and the United Kingdom remains modest, we recognize its enormous potential. Mexico represents a large export market and our biggest Latin American investor. UK-MX bilateral trade reached £5.3 billion in the four quarters to the end of Q4 2019, an increase of 8.1 percent compared to the same period last year. The UK remains the eighth-biggest investor in Mexico, which is also the biggest investor in the UK from LATAM. Even if the UK has underperformed historically in trade with Latin America, things are moving in the right direction, as exports have almost doubled since 2010, while Mexican exports to the UK continue to show more dynamism with each passing year. Export wins from our Department for International Trade (DIT) reached an impressive £279 million in 2019, well exceeding targets. Bilateral investment is also growing in both directions. The UK’s FDI stock in Mexico is now over £30 billion, with companies Diageo and Unilever having recently invested heavily.
Furthermore, the UK intends to pursue accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) as a key part of our trade negotiations program. Joining the CPTPP would help us diversify our trade links and supply chains, which would allow us to continue strengthening our trade relationship with Mexico.
Q: How does the British government's Prosperity Fund contribute to gender issues in Mexico and what other types of cooperation do you have in mind?
A: All of our international cooperation programs have a gender focus from their inception stages. We recognize that the challenges for women and girls have been exacerbated by this pandemic, and especially with the increase in domestic violence and economic woes. We have modified our existing programs to economically empower women, especially those who own MSMEs. Through our Future Cities Program we have provided technical assistance so that transportation can be safe, especially for women and girls, as we build back better from COVID-19.
Last March, one of the outcomes of the high-level economic talks between Mexico and the UK was setting up a series of gender seminars to share experiences between our two countries. We held the first part of these seminars at the beginning of September. We are working on the design of a pilot to be able to report and measure the gender pay gap in Mexico, using the methodology of the United Kingdom, in order to influence, based on evidence, having public policies that seek economic recovery in equal pay. We held our first virtual event on this topic on Sept. 21 and we now have interest from the private sector to work with us. We also have a strategic alliance with the Women’s Economic Forum to start working on a series of mentorship schemes but also to work together on Gender Pay Gap efforts.
Currently, we are looking for a collaboration with the UK’s Domestic Abuse Commissioner to share best practices, lessons learned and innovative solutions. Our International Fund will seek to support Mexican ministries and institutions, such as SEGOB, SRE, CONAVIM and INMUJERES, with technical assistance and funds to strengthen them and combat domestic violence.