Three years ago I was offered a wonderful job and opportunity: to take on the role of the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy for Mexico.
Of course I accepted with alacrity and since then I have made five trips in that capacity to Mexico. My job is to boost bilateral trade between our two countries, and to help UK companies and organisations build relationships at senior level with their Mexican counterparts, and vice versa. And the fact that the Prime Minister decided to appoint a Trade Envoy to Mexico – the only one in Latin America – demonstrates how important Mexico is to the UK; that it is a priority country.
And I have discovered why: we have so much in common, whether it is our shared creativity or entrepreneurial spirit. We have a like-minded approach to free trade, open economies and sustainable development. We are also doing well – in the period January to July 2015 the value of our exports to Mexico increased by 26.5 per cent compared with the same period in 2014 – but we still have much more to do, particularly in relation to our EU competitors.
During the time I have been Trade Envoy momentous events have occurred in Mexico in the form of political reforms that have led to, among other things, unprecedented transformation in the energy and telecoms sectors.
In the case of energy, the reforms allow international operators into Mexico for the first time in over 70 years. I have been working closely on this. I visited Villahermosa in Tabasco State and heard from British companies, first-hand, about their experiences of working in Mexico. I, with UKTI, organised a roundtable event in London sponsored by Shell to pass on such intelligence to others interested in this particular Mexican Moment.
UK companies such as Premier Oil have already started to win licences to operate oil and gas fields, and there are further huge opportunities for UK companies along the supply chain. In September, I was in Aberdeen for Offshore Europe where for the first time there was a large Mexican delegation – supported by UKTI and ProMexico – visiting and exhibiting and making connections. And even more recently UKTI organised the largest ever oil and gas mission to Mexico. Thirty companies visited, and whilst there they were able, crucially, to develop their relationships with Pemex, as well as visit three relevant Mexican cities.
2015 is of course The Dual Year of Mexico in the UK, and the UK in Mexico. Initially conceived of as a cultural initiative, subsequently its scope was expanded to include education, science, innovation and business. With respect to trade and investment we staged or participated in many big event, such as the following:
• I was delighted to take part in the Innovation is GREAT Summit in Mexico City earlier this year;
• The UK was country of honour at Mexico’s first aerospace show;
• The largest ever delegation of British businesses attended ANTAD, the biggest food and drink trade fair in Mexico;
• The Lord Mayor of London visited Mexico to promote British expertise in financial services at the same time that UKTI led the first Smart Cities mission to Mexico;
• Lord Maude, the Trade and Investment Minister, visits Mexico later this month and will see the return of Formula 1 to Mexico for the first time in 23 years;
• Hamleys will open their first store in the Americas (in Mexico) in November; and
• Next month a dual mission, airports and security, will also take place, centred around the new Mexico City airport created by Foster + Partners.
The fact that the stunning design for this airport comes from a Mexican/British collaboration is no surprise.
A strong historical link between the UK and Mexico is that we are both viscerally creative countries, and that our artists are inspired by each other. DH Lawrence lived and wrote great literature in Mexico, and Carlos Fuentes lived and wrote great literature in Britain. Leonora Carrington – whose work is presently being exhibited at Tate Liverpool – chose to create in Mexico; Alfonso Cuaron is based in the UK.
On my first official trip I visited Guadelajara and spoke to creative industry companies and students involved in the Ciudad Creativa Digital project. On the second, I led a delegation of 40 companies involved in the creative sector for a GREAT Week. During that visit Britain was guest of honour at the animation festival, Cut Out Fest in Queretero. Alix Wiseman from Aardaman Animations gave the keynote speech, and now in 2015 Shaun the Sheep will be performing a star turn at the Guadalajara Book Fair. And Glyn Pegler who was leading a group of Welsh Digital companies was recently made Honorary Prosperity Consul for the Mexican government in Cardiff.
Following on the telecoms reforms there is to be a new television channel, the tender for which has been granted to Grupo Imagen. They wish to access great content and formats and so are looking to the UK, to the BBC, Channel 4, ITV, Sky, and our independent production companies who create programmes for them and post-production companies such as Framestore who worked on, among other great films, Gravity. So this November I am leading a delegation of companies involved in broadcasting and the film industries to Mexico.
To bring the curtain down on our wonderful Dual Year in a suitably creative way, the UK will be Country of Honour at the Guadalajara Book Fair, the most important book fair in Latin America. It’s a wonderful opportunity to showcase the UK as one of the best places to do business in the world.
But in many ways we see this as just the start. We are determined to turn the strong friendships and connections forged in the Dual Year, and the greater understanding and knowledge of each other’s country and culture, into a very significant increase in bilateral trade.