The Business Year

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SAUDI ARABIA - Diplomacy

Marcelo Ebrard

Minister 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 (1993-1994) 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 (1988-1989), served on the Council of Advisers to the Head of Government (2000-2002), and was Secretary of Public Security (2002-2004) and Secretary of Social Development (2005). He was elected Head of Government of the Federal District (Mayor of Mexico City) for the 2006 -2012 period, where he expanded social programs for underserved communities, shaped a progressive environmental policy, enhanced urban mobility, and strengthened Mexico City’s cosmopolitan identity, receiving the 2010 World Mayor award for these achievements. He chaired the UN-Habitat Global Network on Safer Cities, advising local authorities on urban safety and encouraging the participation of citizens to reclaim public spaces. Secretary Ebrard Casaubon holds a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from El Colegio de México and studied Public Administration at the École Nationale d’ Administration in Paris, France.

"Saudi Arabia is, indisputably, a leader, not just within the GCC but in the Middle East and the entire Arab world."

Marcelo Ebrard, Mexican Minister of Foreign Affairs, talks to TBY about the evolution of bilateral relations with Saudi Arabia and top areas of cooperation.

From a diplomatic perspective, what is the importance of Saudi Arabia within the GCC member states for Mexico?

There’s 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. That said, 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, and with Vision 2030, there are renewed opportunities and possibilities for Mexico to strengthen its relations with the entire Middle East, with the Gulf countries, and specifically with 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. How would you assess the evolution of the ties between the two nations? What are 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 include the visits of Mexican presidents to this country in 1975 and 2016. While the relationship has always been cordial, I will say that, in the last two years, our ties have been more dynamic. We have strengthened the political dialogue. I have met my counterpart, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, Prince Faisal bin Farhal Al Saud, three times in the past year, so far, including my visit to Riyadh at the beginning of this year. Likewise, Mexico is focusing its efforts on 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 that more companies and businesses can 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 of 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 big potential for synergy in cooperation, collaboration, and for sharing best practices, which includes the cultural area. Mexico and Saudi Arabia need to understand and know each other better. Finally, an important aspect is the growth of the Mexican community in Saudi Arabia, both in the capital city and in other cities that offer work and investment opportunities for Mexican citizens.

You have met your Saudi Arabian counterpart several times this year. Both parties agreed to strengthen bilateral economic relations. On what specific areas will the bilateral cooperation be focusing?

Saudi Arabia is going through a momentous period; a big transformation deriving from its Vision 2030 and its focus on reducing its dependence on oil and on developing other productive sectors. Of course, 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 people are traveling to Saudi Arabia to explore these opportunities. Likewise, Mexican startups in different sectors could benefit from the relationship with Saudi Arabia, considering as well the magnitude of Saudi projects in urban and touristic development. Tourism is another sector with great potential, which can allow for reciprocal investment opportunities and the 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, I believe there are areas of opportunity for Saudi investment in the Mexican tourism sector.

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