We Are In This Together

Ambassador Rishchynski loves tamales, so Inside México invited him to Tamales y Algo Más on Álvaro Obregón in Colonia Roma. The food was rico, and so was the conversation about the challenges and opportunities facing Canada and Mexico in 2009 and beyond.

Canadian Ambassador Guillermo E. Rishchynski.

Inside México: How significant are Canada's business interests in Mexico today?

Ambassador Rishchynski: When I was coming here in 1989-1992 we knew that Mexico could be a great market for Canadian goods. But we wanted to go beyond just selling things to each other. We wanted to make things together. Now, tails for jets leave Querétaro and are being attached to fuselages in Montréal eight days later. Mexico and Canada now have an integrated economic partnership that helps us both be competitive.

If you had told me back in ‘89 that today we would have $27 billion USD in two-way trade between Canada and Mexico, I wouldn't have believed you. The total Canadian investment in Mexico is now over $7 billion USD, and there are over two thousand Canadian companies with a presence in this country.

In the mining sector, there is an explosion of Canadian activity. There are over 200 companies exploring, and between twenty and thirty companies in production. As far as I know, it is the largest foreign mining presence in the country.

Both countries are benefiting from this enhanced relationship.

IM: Is the Canada Mexico Partnership, set up to advance the economic interests of both countries, considering green business opportunities?

AR: There is big potential bilateral growth in this area over the next decade-clean technologies. This should be viewed in the North American context; we need to begin discussing cap-and-trade [an administrative program designed to reduce carbon emissions]. Hopefully there will be some dynamism in a bilateral and trilateral way.

The [Canadian] Prime Minister has been categorical on this point. We have internal environmental and energy issues to deal with. And as we solve these we think we will be able to work with other countries to help them deal with theirs.

IM: What do you think about all the semi- and fully retired Canadians moving to Mexico?

AR: It will be interesting to see how Mexico reacts in terms of health services. I am aware that one of the new hospitals in the Guadalajara area, for example, shuttles people back and forth between Chapala and Ajijic and the hospital.

Going south during the winter is part of our landscape. People have always sought sunnier climes during the winter months. And Mexico is a good deal, value for money.

IM: Do you visit Canadians around the country?

AR: I travel a lot to see Canadians. There are about 40,000 Mennonites living in Chihuahua who are Canadian citizens. There are many business and community links between the Mennonites there and southern Manitoba. The hockey rink in Cuauhtémoc, Chihuahua is called Pista Manitoba! There are other Canadian resident colonies in Chapala, Puerto Vallarta, and San Miguel de Allende, and also in Baja California.

IM: Given the current security problems in Mexico, do you warn Canadians about coming here?

AR: Our travel advisory says exercise caution. Foreigners are not specifically targeted for crimes here. 1.5 million Canadians come here every year and there is a rising semi-resident population, people who have bought a pied-a-terre and spend months, not weeks. We are seeing the increase in numbers in the request for services [at the consulates]. There are more than 200 flights a week from Canada to Mexico; there are direct flights from St. John's, Newfoundland, to Cancún. The average length of stay for a Canadian in Mexico is seventeen days. We tend to move around, to journey by car and bus. We tend not to just stay at the beach.

IM: Has the security situation reduced the tourism from Canada?

AR: No. It has had no negative impact on bookings to date.

IM: How important are the issues of security and drugs to Canada's relationship with Mexico?

AR: We are in this geographical space together. Competitiveness is about economic security. The implication in this is to see security in another way. It has to be complementary to our overall well-being. For example, a truck that goes back and forth all day long across the border needs to have pre-clearance and this is a priority that needs to be undertaken.

We see the issue as one of risk management, not risk elimination. You can't eliminate risk. You have to manage risk. Organized crime, however, is a global problem; it is not a Mexican problem. We understand that organized crime is a threat and that it operates transnationally.

Security is the national government's responsibility, but it should be a local responsibility too. That is the shift that needs to occur here. The President [of Mexico] is trying to shift the culture and the mindset. This violence is being committed to great effect, but this talk about Mexico being a failed state is utter nonsense.

The challenges are compelling, but I would suggest that the way out of this is through partnership.

IM: Do you like your job?

AR: I think I have the best job in the Canadian Foreign Service and am giving thought to spending time in Mexico when I retire.

Guillermo E. Rishchynski was appointed as Canada's Ambassador to the United Mexican States in September 2007. Ambassador Rishchynski joined the Canadian Foreign Service in 1982, serving in Brazil, Jordan, Australia, Indonesia, and the USA. He was Ambassador to Colombia and Brazil before coming to Mexico, and has held a number of senior positions at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa.


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