Mexico’s Ambassador to Nigeria, HE Alfredo Miranda, in an interview with KEHINDE OSASONA, talks about how Mexico is deepening its commercial and bilateral relations with Nigeria and its worrying imbalance.
You recently met President Muhammadu Buhari at Villa Aso. Tell us what happened ?
Well, it was a momentous occasion for me. The Canadian High Commissioner and I had the opportunity to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari to present our credentials to him. It was a grand ceremony in which my Canadian counterpart delivered a vote of thanks on our behalf.
How long have you been a diplomat and where have you served?
I started my diplomatic career in 1991 in Costa Rica in Central America. From there I was transferred to the Mexican Mission of the Organization of American States in Washington, DC, USA. I returned to Mexico and was then assigned to the Mexican Mission to UNESCO in Paris. From there I served as Deputy Chief of Mission in Beijing, China and then came to Africa in 2012. Ethiopia was my first post as Ambassador. And I was also a permanent observer to the African Union. Later, I received the great honor of representing Mexico in Saudi Arabia where I was asked to be the Deputy Chief of Mission at the Mexican Embassy in the United States. Now I am happily working in Nigeria. This is my first time to West Africa and I am ready to learn and contribute to the strengthening of bilateral relations between the two nations.
How do you rate the commercial and bilateral relations between Nigeria and Mexico? Is it planned to deepen it?
Let me say that Mexico and Nigeria have many attributes. Specifically, Mexico reopened its embassy here in 2008 and our diplomatic and bilateral relations date back to 1976. Both countries practice federalism as a democratic system. Nigeria has 36 states; in Mexico we have 32 states. The population of Mexico is 129 million and Nigeria has around 250 million. Mexico’s gross domestic product is US$1.07 trillion while in Nigeria it is US$429 billion. More importantly, we both have a vibrant workforce and many metrics that can be leveraged to our advantage. So for me, we have a lot in common and have a lot to benefit from each other. Our geographic location in Mexico has helped us establish very strong economic ties with the United States and Canada in North America and has developed a very strong bond with them over the past 25 years. In addition, we currently have 12 free trade agreements with 46 countries, 32 agreements for the promotion and reciprocal protection of investments with 33 countries and nine agreements within the framework of the Latin American Integration Association. This is the platform we used and we hope that the free trade agreement will also be leveraged by Nigeria as it is not only a huge economy in Africa but also strategic.
Considering that Nigeria and Mexico would be large in size and trade powerhouses in Africa and South America, what is the relationship between Nigerian entrepreneurs, the Nigerian-Mexican Chamber of Commerce and the Mexican Embassy in Nigeria?
Well, let me give this analysis. For example, the annual export trade between Mexico and North America is approximately $660 billion. Each second, the intensity is of the order of 1.3 million US$. Look at the interconnected era economy now comparing it to our trade with Africa or Nigeria.
I think we really have to balance it; we have to work on that, we have to look at areas of comparative advantage. We assemble cars in Mexico and that gives room for added value. Again, Mexico trades and exports more to South Africa, Morocco and Egypt than to Nigeria. It’s way too low. Nigeria-Mexico can do better and that can only happen if we do the right thing. At the institutional level, we have forged ties and I am committed to working bilaterally on the trade deficit and the trade balance between the two countries. We are exporters of products such as machinery, chemicals, vehicles, paper goods. Before today, Nigeria exported hibiscus flowers to Mexico but stopped four years ago. After negotiations with NAQS, we agreed on an institutional framework to increase our exchanges in this area. Mexico is ready to connect with the right people to advance trade, business and bilateral relations. Trade missions from Nigeria have already been to Mexico, but what is the result if we still have this deficit in our balance, while our bilateral trade brings in 189 million US dollars. Our two chambers of commerce and entrepreneurs must arm themselves in this sense. In Mexico, we have created the right conditions for investment. We built all the cars, Korean, Japanese except Peugeot. And we export to the United States and other countries. We have developed with France a major technological center for the construction of aircraft.
German, Swiss are with us in pharmaceutical developments. We also produce computers, washing machines. Interestingly, the location of our industry in Mexico has allowed us to leverage and create an environment for investors. The fact that the President of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has a 65% approval rating, is working so hard to consolidate previous achievements and infrastructure development in Mexico is also significant. Last week I had a Mexican delegation of business people from the Mexican Council for Business Investments and Technology, and there are about 3,000 Mexican business companies on the council that we’re trying to bring in.
Tell us about Mexico’s transition from a mono economy to a mixed economy?
It was a very important transformation process for us. We have gone from being dependent on exporting oil to creating opportunity through the free trade agreement. In 1994, NAFTA gave us the chance to learn how to strengthen our economic ties based on forward-thinking trade agreements. Since the implementation of NAFTA, trade and investment across North America has grown, with regional competitiveness increasing and further strengthening. Thus, NAFTA trade between the three member countries has further opened Mexico to the world. In 2019, Mexico became the largest trading partner of the United States for the first time with trade totaling $614.6 billion, as I said. So, for me, we can learn and explore new opportunities that can boost the value chains, economic development and well-being of our two nations by effectively combining individual comparative advantages in a competitive regional system to improve ourselves and be competitive on the world stage. Today, the Mexican economy has multiplied by seven. We export 470 billion US$, we import 393 billion with a balance of 24 billion US$. Now compare the magnitude of the trade.
Mexico, Niger and Nigeria have a rich culture and it is also a tourist country. Have there been any cultural exchanges?
Nigeria is a country with a diverse culture like Mexico. In the 125 million people, we have 68 different languages and I think Nigeria has over 400. Yes, I think there is a need to showcase our culture and make Mexico better known. It is a tourist destination rich in culture and textile fusion with many museums, criss-crossing states and cities. So multiculturalism is a way of communicating and we are so proud of what we have and what we have achieved. These are some of the similarities we have seen with our country and yours.
How is your visa service? Is there a visa for students, businessmen and visitors?
Mexico has a very specific legal framework for migration. We are one of the most open countries. The visa is in two categories: economic and non-economic with different requirements that must be met when applying. Thus, anyone traveling to Mexico must report to the embassy to provide fingerprints, biometrics, etc. Tourists, for example, must show their economic capabilities, income and work status. If such a person has financial and other documents verified with government institutions, then he is ready to go. For the granting of visas to persons wishing to study in Mexico, the Embassy requires the original of the letter of acceptance from an institution belonging to the national educational system, indicating the name of the person concerned, the level, the grade and field of study, name of course, start and end date, cost of tuition and identification data of the educational institution. The applicant must also demonstrate economic solvency to cover tuition, accommodation and living expenses.