The Business Year

Gustavo Almaraz M.

MEXICO - Diplomacy

Our Politics

Sr. Partner and President, Grupo Estrategia Polí­tica (GEP)

Bio

In addition to his position of Sr. Partner and President of Grupo Estrategia Polí­tica (GEP), Gustavo Almaraz M. is also the Academic former of the Mexican Academy of International Law (WICS). He has also been a Member of the International Gaming Attorneys (IAGA), Adviser to the National Tourist Business Council (CNET), Vice-President of Legislative Affairs of the National Confederation of Industrial Chambers (CONCAMIN). Former President of the National Lobbying Association (PROCAB), former Senator representing the state of Baja California, Secretary of Public Education of Baja California, founding Dean of the Humanities School at the Baja California State University.

How has lobbying evolved in Mexico over recent years? Lobbying is a fairly old practice in Mexico, but we can speak of two stages in its evolution. In the first […]

How has lobbying evolved in Mexico over recent years?

Lobbying is a fairly old practice in Mexico, but we can speak of two stages in its evolution. In the first stage, the public decision-making process was mainly focused in the Federal Executive Branch, organizations seeking dialogue with the authorities directed their efforts towards lobbying with the Executive Branch. After a long democratization process in 1997, and for the first time in history, Mexico had a divided government. It was at this time that the government’s party (PRI) lost the majority in Congress and the opposition started to take control of more public spaces; it was here that Lobbying in Congress began. I had the privilege to be one of the first founders of a lobbying consulting firm in Mexico. We sought the creation of a “Professional Lobbying Association in Mexico” due to the need of having an organization where firms, companies, and organizations working in the areas of government affairs were represented, dignifying activity by bringing transparency and ethics to it. Today, there are lobbying regulations in Congress, among others, firms, companies, and associations must register every three years, each time the Legislature changes. Although we fully comply with the regulations stipulated by Congress at GEP, it hasn’t been able to formulate a cohesive, long-lasting regulation on lobbying. We believe that this is because the activity is not well understood in Mexico. A lobbyist’s permanent task is to convey that the dialogue between private sectors and public powers is necessary.

What kind of trends have you been witnessing in terms of demand?

There are individual complaints according to the type of industry in question. For example, there are single-issue groups, like the food industry, whose main topic of interest revolves around obesity. Other groups are far more demanding, not only because of the great number of issues in which they have interests, but also because their issues are part of the public agenda, such is the case of the insurance sector. Also, there are issues where there is a multitude of stakeholders, such as the energy sector, where there is widespread interest for legal reforms and market participation. We have another group of clients that are composed of large foreign companies, which need information and advice in order to conduct their own lobbying in the Executive Branch. Because of this, GEP offers a monitoring service. It observes what’s happening in Congress, the Executive Branch, the State Legislatures, and in the State governments. We have developed an interesting and personalized communication system. This means you can be online 24 hours a day to follow up on specific topics of interest. Congress generates vast amounts of information and works in a very dynamic way. With this system, GEP offers immediate information, focusing specifically on our client’s interests.

How competitive is the industry?

There isn’t much competition. However, quality and good service is a common denominator among competitor firms. We are one of the largest firms that is completely dedicated to providing political consulting and lobbying to our clients. Because of this, we are always improving our communication platforms and strategies.

What are some of the key changes that need to be made to the regulatory environment?

Lobbying activities in Mexico are often misunderstood or misinterpreted, confusing the term “lobbying” with “favors,” “corruption,” or “pay-offs.” The solution to this relies in making our activities transparent.

What do you think 2013 holds for Mexico?

Today, Mexico has what I call a “new democracy.” We have been a democracy for many years, but now we are a democracy according to our needs, culture, and location. Every six years our democracy grows; and because of pressures from our society and the evolution of social media, we have a government that is concerned with transparency and accountability issues, which makes for a better democratic system. More sectors of society, such as companies, groups and associations, now have the opportunity to participate in the design of public policies, a clear sign of democratic maturity. In Mexico, a new government has been elected. Enrique Peña Nieto is a young president with strong political basis who rose to power after being the governor of the State of Mexico. His government began its term pushing forward an aggressive agenda that privileges dialogue with all political parties through an active participation mechanism known as the Pact for Mexico. President Peña has made clear that the top priority for his government will be to make sure that all structural reforms will be presented, discussed, and approved. Enrique Peña Nieto has proven to be a good strategist and politician. In government, the name of the game is politics.

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