The Ambassador of Mexico to Nigeria, HE Alfredo Miranda in an interview with KEHINDE OSASONA speaks of how Mexico is deepening trade and bilateral ties with Nigeria and its worrisome imbalance.
Recently you met President Muhammadu Buhari at the Aso Villa. Tell us what transpired?
Well, it was a memorable occasion for me. The High commissioner of Canada and I had the opportunity to meet the President Muhammadu Buhari to present our letters of credence. It was a great ceremony where 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, Organisation of American States in Washington, DC USA. I returned to Mexico and later posted to the Mexican Mission at UNESCO in Paris. From there, I served as Deputy Head of Mission in Beijing, China and Iater came to Africa in 2012. Ethiopia was my first ambassadorial post. And I was also a permanent observer to the African Union. I later received the high honour to represent Mexico in Saudi Arabia where I was asked to be the Deputy Head of Mission in the Embassy of Mexico in the US. Now, I am happily working in Nigeria. This is my first time in West Africa and I am ready to learn and contribute towards enhancing the bilateral relations between both nations.
How would you rate the Nigeria/Mexico trade and bilateral relations. Is there any plan to deepen it?
Let me say that Mexico and Nigeria have many attributes. Precisely, Mexico reopens its embassy here in 2008 and our diplomatic and bilateral relationship is dated back to 1976. The two countries operate federalism as its democratic system. Nigeria has 36 states; in Mexico we have 32 states. The population in Mexico is 129 million inhabitants and Nigeria has about 250 million people. The Gross Domestic Product of Mexico is 1.07 trillion US$ while in Nigeria it is 429 billion US$. More importantly, we both have a vibrant working population and many parameters that can be exploited to our advantages. So for me, we have a lot in common and have a lot to benefit from each other. Our geographic location as Mexico has helped us in establishing very strong economic ties with the US, and Canada in North America and has been developing a very strong link with them in the past 25 years. Also, 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 has been the platform we have been using and we hope the Free Trade Agreement would also be exploited by Nigeria because it is not only a huge economy in Africa but also strategic.
Considering that Nigeria and Mexico are reportedly large and are business power houses in both Africa and South America, what are the relationships between Nigerian entrepreneurs, the Nigerian-Mexican Chamber of Commerce and Mexican Embassy in Nigeria?
Well, let me give this analysis. For instance, export trade between Mexico and North America yearly is about $660 billion. Every second, the intensity is in the region of 1.3 million US$. Look at the interlink age economy now comparing that with our trade with Africa or Nigeria.
I think we really need to balance it; we need to work on that, we need to look at areas of comparative advantages. We assemble cars in Mexico and that gives room for value addition. Again, Mexico trades in commerce and exportation to South Africa, Morocco, and Egypt more than with Nigeria. It is way too low. Nigeria-Mexico can do better and that can only happen if we do the right thing. Institutionally speaking, we have established ties and I am committed to working bilaterally on the trade deficit and trade balance between the two countries. We are exporters of products like machines, chemicals, vehicles, paper items. Before now, Nigeria was exporting hibiscus flowers to Mexico but stopped four years ago. After a negotiation with NAQS, we have agreed on an institutional framework to increase our trade in this field. Mexico is open to connect with the right people to advance the business, trade and bilateral ties. Business missions from Nigeria have gone to Mexico before now but what is the result If we still have this deficit in our balance, when our bilateral trade grosses 189 million US$. Our two chambers of commerce and entrepreneurs need to brace up in this direction. In Mexico, we have created the conditions for investment. We built all the cars, Koreans, Japanese except Peugeot. And we are exporting to the USA and other countries. We have developed a large technological hub for the construction of airplanes in conjunction with France.
German, Swiss are with us in Pharmaceutical developments. We are also producing computers, washing machines. Interestingly, the location of our industry in Mexico has enabled us to reap from and create an environment for investors. Also of importance is the fact that the president of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador who gets a 65% approval rate is working so hard to consolidate on previous achievements and development of infrastructure in Mexico. Last week, I received a Mexican delegation of businessmen belonging to the Mexican council on trade investment and technology, and there are about 3,000 Mexican business enterprises in the council that we are trying to bring in.
Tell us about Mexico’s transition from Mono economy to mixed-economy?
It was a very important process of transformation for us. We transited from dependency from oil export to creating opportunities through the free trade agreement. In 1994, NAFTA gave us the chance to learn how to strengthen our economic ties based on pioneering trading agreements. Since NAFTA’s implementation, trade and investment across North America have expanded with regional competitiveness increasing and further strengthened. So, NAFTA trade exchanges between the three member countries further opened Mexico’s to the world. In 2019, Mexico became the largest trading partner of the United States for the first time with trade exchanges totaling 614.6 billion dollars like I said. So for me, we can learn and explore new opportunities that can boost value chains, economic development and well-being of our two nations by effectively combining individual comparative advantages into a competitive regional system to improve and compete on the global stage. Today, Mexican economy has grown seven times. We are exporting 470 billion US$, we are importing 393 billion with a balance of 24 billion US$. Now compare the scale of the trade.
Mexico, Niger like Nigeria has a rich culture and it is also a tourist country. Has there been any cultural exchange?
Nigeria is a country with a diverse culture like Mexico. In the 125 million populations, we have 68 different languages and I think Nigeria has over 400. Yes, I think there is a need to showcase our culture and let people know more about Mexico. It is a tourist destination rich in culture and textile fusion with many museums, criss-crossing across states and cities. So, multiculturalism is a way to communicate and we are so proud of what we have and what has been our achievement. These are some of the similarities we have seen with our country and yours.
How is your visa service? Is there visa for students, businessmen and visitors?
Mexico has a very particular legal framework on migration. We are one of the most open countries. The visa is in two categories: the economic and non-economic with different requirements which must be fulfilled during application. So, any person going to Mexico has to be in the embassy to provide fingerprints, bio-metrics and so on.Tourists, for instance, have to show their economic capacities, earning and working status. If such a person has financial and other documents verified with government institutions, then he is good to go. For granting visas to persons wishing to study in Mexico, the embassy requires the original letter of acceptance from an institution belonging to the national educational system, indicating the name of the interested party, level, grade and area of study, name of the course, start and end date, cost of tuition and identification data of the educational institution. The applicant must also demonstrate the economic solvency to cover the tuition, lodging and living expenses.