When I relocated in 2010 to open and head the office of Nader, Hayaux & Goebel, the only Mexican firm in London, I had discussions with the Mexican Embassy and the London Office of ProMéxico (Mexico’s promotion agency) on the importance of having a Mexican Chamber of Commerce in London to represent Mexican businesses in the UK, and to collaborate with other organisations to increase bilateral trade and investment. In 2011, one year after our initial discussions, the Mexican Chamber of Commerce (MexCC) in Great Britain was officially launched.
Chambers of commerce develop a network of relationships with shared interests, allowing members to benefit from accumulated knowledge and experiences. Their role is crucial in supporting the growth and development of entrepreneurs and businesses, especially in terms of trade and investment. Back in 1782, a white paper was written in London advocating the need for a chamber of commerce, but it was not until 1881 that the London Chamber of Commerce was established. (Mexico City was ahead of London in this regard: its Chamber of Commerce was formed seven years earlier in 1874.)
On the international front, the story is quite different. The British Chamber of Commerce in Mexico celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2011, the same year in which the first MexCC was formed in Great Britain, (it is also the first Mexican Chamber of Commerce in Europe.)
The MexCC in London is being used as the hub to provide guidance and support to Mexican business expanding into Europe, acting as a catalyst for positive change in trade and investment relations between Mexico and the UK.
This has taken place at a time when Mexico is experiencing a wave of transformational structural reforms in areas such as energy, telecommunications, competition, rule of law, fighting corruption, capital markets, financial services and employment. These reforms have revolutionised Mexico’s framework in a manner that we are yet to appreciate fully, giving rise to opportunities for those willing to take them.
Today, Mexico has a free market and open legal framework, in which UK investors are – from a legal standpoint – basically treated as if they were Mexicans. As a foreign investor, it does not get any better than that.
The MexCC has been delivering measurable improvement to the expansion of Mexican business in the UK, contributing to increased trade and investment for its members, and showcasing Mexican entrepreneurs as the successful and strategic partners that they are. The changes on both sides of the Atlantic are gradually reshaping the bilateral relationship.
The MexCC is funded through memberships and generous support from its Patrons. If it wasn’t for these members and Patrons, the organisation would not be able to function or continue growing until it becomes a self-sustainable organisation. With 68 members, we are on the right track. I am proud of what has been accomplished in four years; however, there is still much work to be done, and we require further support.
The MexCC is the organisation that permits Mexicans in the UK to collaborate and work together towards a common vision, breaking paradigms on collaboration among Mexicans. So aside from allowing individuals to accomplish their personal objectives, the MexCC raises the profile and improves the perception of Mexicans in the UK, allowing members to succeed in their business ventures.
Naturally, the MexCC welcomes and embraces government-led initiatives like the Year 2015 as the Year of Mexico in the UK and the Year of the UK in Mexico. Programmes like these represent a unique opportunity to highlight Mexico’s cultural offerings, through a wide range of exhibitions, films, concerts, seminars, workshops, plays, music festivals and academic fora. This all helps to showcase Mexico’s rich history and culture to a wider audience in the UK, allowing the country to be better understood.
The MexCC is also busy sourcing members of the business community in the City who have yet to be exposed to the opportunities that Mexico has to offer foreign investors. We bring them together with Mexicans who are already doing business in the UK, in the hope to replicate these success stories.
The MexCC has also been promoting the City of London as the ideal hub for Mexican business expanding internationally; it is the international financial centre bringing the Middle East, India, Russia, Africa, South East Asia and even China to Mexico. Furthermore, the City could bring further innovation, capability, growth, diversification, knowledge and financial support to Mexico. There are certainly some firms that are investing and doing what they can to seize the opportunities out there, but there is still a lot of work to be done.
There are, however, certainly a growing number of businesses in the City with an interest in Mexico and Latin America, becoming active with the Mexican Chamber of Commerce, developing relationships and participating in regular trade delegations to Mexico and the Latin American region. As a result, we can see organisations in the UK becoming more active because of the growing interest in Mexico and the region. Crucially, there has been an increase in direct flights linking London with Mexico and Latin America, along with more Mexicans than ever coming to establish themselves in London, using it as their hub for Europe.
I have no doubt that the flow of money and business will continue to follow. In order that the City benefits from all this, it will need to attract expertise and talent with experience and understanding of the Latin American market. These local connections and relationships will facilitate and expedite the growth, capitalising on these opportunities. They will serve the clients’ appetite and need for information, and continue nurturing the organisations that have been working from the UK.
Overall, the success of the Year of Mexico in the UK will be measured by the long-term benefits, sustainable growth and profitability that it generates. The MexCC must continue working to ensure that it is not only in 2015, but every year, that there is more Mexico in the UK and more UK in Mexico. This will in turn generate bilateral trade and investment, and therefore tangible benefits to the MexCC’s members.
The future success of the bilateral relationship between Mexico and the UK still depends on what we do about it today, but we must feel proud of our progress in the past five years and in particular, the successes in 2015. If we want to transform our present for a better and more promising future, we must work much harder in the years to come.