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SAUDI ARABIA - Diplomacy

Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon

Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Mexico

Bio

Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon has wide experience in public service and as an elected official. He was undersecretary of foreign affairs before being elected to the 57th Legislature of the Mexican Congress (1997-2000). In the former federal district government, he was director general of interim affairs, served on the Council of Advisers to the Head of Government, and was secretary of public security and Secretary of Social Development. He was elected head of government of the federal district (Mayor of Mexico City) from 2006–2012. He also chaired the UN-Habitat Global Network on Safer Cities. Casaubon holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations from El Colegio de México and studied public administration at École Nationale d’Administration in Paris.

"There is ample opportunity for joint dialogue with the six countries in one of the most relevant geopolitical areas in the world."
With Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, there are unlimited opportunities and possibilities for Mexico to strengthen its relations with the Kingdom, benefiting from their investment capacities, as well as common interests in several areas.
From a diplomatic perspective, what is the importance of Saudi Arabia within the GCC member states that Mexico is interacting with?

There is ample opportunity for joint dialogue with the six countries in one of the most relevant geopolitical areas in the world. Although the bilateral relationship is different with each of these countries, there are clear opportunities in the economic-trade, cultural, and cooperation aspects. As a G20 country, Saudi Arabia is, indisputably, a leader, not just within the GCC but in the Middle East and the entire Arab world, derived not only from its economic potential but also from its influence in the region’s political stability. Considering the accelerated transformation put in place by the Saudi leadership since 2016, with Vision 2030, there are renewed opportunities and possibilities for Mexico to strengthen its relations with the entire Middle East, Gulf countries, and, specifically, Saudi Arabia, benefiting from their geostrategic location and their investment capacities, as well as shared interests in several areas.

1952 marked the beginning of diplomatic relations between Saudi and Mexico. What have been the main highlights and milestones achieved during 70 years of dialogue?

The opening of the embassies in 1981 is an additional landmark to the formal beginning of diplomatic relations in 1952. High-level encounters also register the visits of Mexican presidents to this country in 1975 and 2016. While the relationship has always been cordial, in the last two years, our ties have been more dynamic. We have strengthened political dialogue. I have met my counterpart, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, three times in the past year. Likewise, Mexico is focusing its efforts on the economic and trade possibilities. Current commercial and investment exchanges are growing to comprise different sectors. The participation and interest of Mexican federal states in this dynamic is also a relevant factor, and our goal is for more companies and businesses to increase trade and help boost reciprocal investments. Additionally, both countries are members of the G20. Saudi Arabia is one of the fastest-growing countries in that group, particularly as a tourism destination. Therefore, the G20 is an additional pathway to strengthen our dialogue and where we can discuss topics of common interest, such as food security. Another important part in our relationship is the multilateral arena, in which the exchange of support of our respective candidacies in different international organizations is a constant. There is also significant potential for synergy in cooperation, collaboration, and sharing best practices, which includes the cultural area. Finally, an important aspect is the growth of the Mexican community in Saudi Arabia, both in the capital city and in other cities, which offers work and investment opportunities for Mexican citizens.

You met your Saudi Arabian counterpart several times in 2022, and both parties have agreed to strengthen the bilateral economic relations. In what specific areas will bilateral cooperation focus on?

On the topic of trade and investment, Saudi Arabia is going through a major transformation deriving from Vision 2030 and its focus on reducing its dependence from oil and on developing other productive sectors. Both Mexico and Saudi Arabia are oil producers, but our economies are and should be more diverse than that. In that regard, there are many possibilities for Mexican companies in the agribusiness sector. Delegations of Mexican business leaders are traveling to Saudi Arabia to explore these opportunities. Likewise, Mexican start-ups in different sectors could benefit from a relationship with Saudi Arabia, considering as well the magnitude of Saudi projects in urban and tourism development. Tourism is another sector with great potential that can allow for reciprocal investment opportunities and sharing of best practices. The Saudi government is interested in what Mexico has done in the tourism sector, and we could certainly share our experience there. Likewise, there are areas of opportunity for Saudi investment in the Mexican tourism sector. 

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