It is a great pleasure to be here at this dinner. I would like to thank Ambassador Karan Bhatia and Nancy Dorn from GE for the invitation. It is always a pleasure to see Secretary Guajardo who is such a close partner with the U.S. government particularly on the High Level Economic Dialogue.
I understand that this is the first time GE has held this Government Affairs and Policy Leadership event outside the United States. I applaud your choice of holding this meeting in Mexico, and I believe that you have come here at a very interesting and exciting time. Mexico is currently in the process of implementing a series of historic structural economic reforms that have the potential to increase economic growth.
Mexico is also well positioned to take advantage of the U.S. economy’s recent recovery which remains one of the few areas of economic growth in the world. The economic and commercial importance of Mexico to the United States, and vice versa, cannot be overstated. Mexico is the United States’ third largest trading partner (behind Canada and China) and our second largest export market. More than $530 billion dollars in trade in goods crosses our border every year – when you add in services that equals more than $1.5 billion every day.
The importance of our economic and commercial exchange is not a new aspect of U.S. – Mexican relations. Mexico and the United States have long worked towards greater economic integration and reaped the benefits of a robust commercial relationship.
However, I do think we are at a special moment in the bilateral relationship when it comes to economic cooperation. Like never before, our two countries are seated together at the table, working through important issues that affect our economies. And we are working on a shared vision with Canada of making North America the most competitive region in the world – something that American and Mexican business are advancing every day through maximizing our integrated supply chains, through enhancing our complementary innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems, and developing our shared competitive advantage in energy resources.
I want to express special thanks to GE for co-leading the U.S.-Mexico CEO Dialogue which provides us in government with extremely valuable input about what issues the private sector sees as priorities in the massive and growing economic relationship.
There is also another component to the current situation in Mexico that is of particular importance: that is the need to improve transparency, strengthen the rule of law, and combat corruption. Secretary of Finance Luis Videgaray recently said, “We need to address what is really important today for Mexican society, which is not just corruption and transparency. It goes beyond that — it is a matter of trust, of confidence.”
He makes an important point. The economic reforms reflect an impressive effort to increase the competitiveness of the Mexican economy and to truly reap the benefits of the economic opportunities that North American commercial integration can provide. However, these efforts will not drive growth to its potential nor attract the full range of investors to Mexico unless there is a parallel effort to improve transparency, rule of law, and anti-corruption efforts.
Through the Merida Initiative, the U.S. government is supporting the Government of Mexico’s efforts to address these crucial issues. Corruption exists everywhere, and our own country faces these challenges.
However, there is a need to share best practices in regulation, open government, legal certainty and rule of law, immigration, security and many other areas of governance. The United States is available to partner with Mexico to meet President Peña Nieto’s new goals to fight corruption. Working together in these areas to promote prosperity and economic growth will make us all more secure and competitive.
I believe that U.S. companies like GE can and do lead the way in ethical and transparent business practices around the global. Mexico has an opportunity and an obligation to ensure that the economic reforms of last year translate into greater growth and prosperity for all Mexicans in the coming years.
The participation of the private sector in calling for and working toward a society that upholds the rule of law, brings greater transparency to government functions, and tackles corruption wherever it may be will be critical in achieving that prosperous future. In recent months we have seen notable leadership from the private sector in Mexico calling for serious anti-corruption reform and offering them our voluntary pacts. This is very encouraging.
Thank you once again for GE’s leadership in Mexico and in building stronger U.S.-Mexico collaboration. Thank you also for the opportunity to speak to you this evening. I wish you all a productive and stimulating conference over the coming days.