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‘RELAUNCHING’ CHINA-MEXICO RELATIONS: President Xi Jinping visit to Mexico

china-mexico-notimex

Last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Mexico, as part of his first trip to the Americas. Earlier this year, during a trip to China to participate in the Boao Forum for Asia, President Peña Nieto extended an invitation to the Chinese President to visit Mexico. China and Mexico established diplomatic relations in 1972, but bilateral contacts are much older than that. In the XVIth Century, during the Spanish colony ships sailed the Pacific loaded with precious metals, cacao grains, avocados, tomatoes and other articles from the Americas that were exchanged for Asian spices, Chinese tea, porcelain and fabrics, especially silk.

For most of the last 40 years, the relations between the countries were quite cordial, during the last ten years. However, diplomatic mishaps and a policy that sought to bring Mexico closer to the US, during the Fox and Calderon administrations, provoked the Mexican neglect of strategic partners in other parts of the world, and in particular in Asia. Despite regular high-level encounters in international fora, such as APEC or G20, and the signing of cooperation agreements in numerous sectors, trade rivalry overshadowed  Sino-Mexican bilateral relations.

Unlike the rest of Latin-America, the economic relationship with Mexico has not been based on Chinese investment to ensure the flow of raw materials to fuel China’s industry. In fact, cheap Chinese labour made Mexico and China direct competitors in the US market;  in some cases, Chinese manufactures displaced national production in the Mexican domestic market. Furthermore, the bilateral trade deficit is heavily favorable to China; in 2012 Chinese exports to Mexico accounted for USD$57 billion, while Mexican exports to China were USD$5.7  billion (according to the Mexican Ministry of Trade, www.economia.gob.mx).

The occasion to relaunch the bilateral relationship could not be better. Each President has recently taken office and both countries seek to reaffirm their positions as global actors. On the domestic side, President Peña Nieto’s administration started a series of structural reforms to increase economic productivity, while China seeks to maintain its economic momentum. The increase of Chinese wages and international oil prices has narrowed down the productivity gap between Chinese and Mexican products. China’s products are not as cheap as they used to, in some cases, it is cheaper and certainly quicker to import from Mexico than from China for US companies. These elements helped Mexico to leave aside fears and realise the economic potential of complementing, rather than competing with, Chinese partners.

With the aims to enhance mutual trust, expand cooperation and deepen friendship, Peña Nieto and Xi Jinping announced the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. This agreement aims to push for comprehensive, in-depth and mutual cooperation between the two countries and to make positive contributions to world peace, stability and prosperity. A permanent bilateral commission and working groups will follow the commitments established in the Partnership by the leaders.

Likewise, the two Presidents agreed to move forward, solving the long standing conflicts on pork, tequila and textiles trade. They committed to increase trade and investment and established a high-level business forum. Mexico and China also signed memoranda of understanding to improve cooperation in energy, biotechnology, mining, financial services and sport.

Additionally, President Peña Nieto and President Xi Jinping will encourage deeper people-to-people links. To start, the Chinese government will increase the number of scholarships offered to Mexican students from 40 to 300 per year. To increase cultural and academic exchanges, a Mexican cultural centre in Beijing and a centre specialising on Chinese studies in the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) will be opened. Finally, as symbol of the two countries’ endeavours to boost tourism flows, during the last day of the visit, President Xi Jinping and his wife visited the archaeological site of Chichen-Itza.

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Some specialists point out that the Chinese visit to Latin America is a sign to the US. China is pointing out that it has interests in other parts of the world, and is not afraid to contest US hegemony, even in the its back yard. Similarly, the US could interpret the visit as a payback for the recent increase in US engagement in Asia, China’s back yard. In any case, this is a perfect environment for Mexico’s diversification, since it could help to break the Mexican trade dependency on the US and to reaffirm itself as a key global player.

As said by President Xi Jiping in his address to the Mexican Senate*, China has a population of 1,300 million, is the second largest importer, expects to invest overseas more than USD$500, and more than 400 million of Chinese tourists will travel around the world in the next few years. This is an incredible opportunity for countries in Latin America, and of course for Mexico. The Comprehensive Strategic Partnership has opened the path for a promising future for Sino-Mexican relations.

 Mexico cannot waste this opportunity…


* I do encourage you to read President Xi Jinping’s speech to the Mexican Senate.

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Filed under BRICS, Development, Foreign investment, Mexico, News brief, Trade, Uncategorized

5 DE MAYO, MONROE DOCTRINE AND US-MEX RELATIONS

Monroe-doctrine-1896

In 1861, a large contingent of French, British and Spanish troops arrived on Mexican shores to support the imposition of Maximilian of Habsbourg as emperor of Mexico. The French contingent advanced to Mexico City and encountered resistance in the city of Puebla where, on the 5th of May of 1862, they were defeated by a small Mexican battalion  and eventually fled the country.

Every year on the 5th of May large festivities take place to celebrate the Mexican victory  in the Batalla de Puebla against the French Army. To the surprise of many, 5 de mayo is not Mexico’s national day (Mexico commemorates its national day on the anniversary of its independence, 16th of September). In reality,  5th of May is only one of many other celebrations in the Mexican historical calendar. It actually has become famous around the world thanks to huge range of festivities organised by Mexican-American communities in the US.

The battle of Puebla is significant not only because a small unprepared Mexican army defeated and expelled the French from Mexican territory, but because it represents the last attempt of European powers to invade American territory. To the satisfaction of President James Monroe, his famous doctrine “America for the Americans” had finally become a reality (I would like to stress that we refer to America as the continent, and Americans as the population of this continent and not to the narrow and commonly used reference of America as the United States and Americans as its citizens).

Throughout the history of relations between the US and Latin America, the Monroe Doctrine has had many and, in some cases, quite broad interpretations. Although military interventions have become rather rare, cover operations and other forms of interference have been widely used in the continent. The end of the Cold War shifted the attention of the US to other regions of the world. However, despite fervorous calls for national sovereignty, there were still claims of substantial US engagement in Latin America’s domestic affairs.

Unsurprisingly, Mexico has not been spared and in reality perhaps has suffered more than any other nation in the region. Geographical proximity, economic interdependence, social interconnection and common challenges have resulted in a very  complex relationship between the US and Mexico; but at the same time, this complexity has allowed the multiplication of numerous avenues for mutual collaboration.

During his recent visit to Mexico, President Obama highlighted the importance for the two countries to strengthen the bilateral relationship. Both Presidents focused their discussions on increasing efforts for further collaboration on trade and investment, energy security, education, innovation and competitiveness.

Nevertheless, it did not take long for criticisms on both sides of the border. Security and immigration, crucial issues for the bilateral agenda, had not been sufficiently discussed and were barely mentioned in official communiques. On the Mexican side, despite general agreement that these two topics should not overrun the bilateral relation, Mexico would like to see further US engagement in this regard (for instance, the immigration reform and larger arms control). While on the American side, criticism has focused on the importance of deepening cooperation to fight organised crime and see Peña Nieto’s measures to scale down US intelligence and security agents involvement in Mexico, as a sign of mistrust.

Critique became particularly sharp when Mexico’s new administration policies were compared to the wider cooperation and greater access that existed with the previous PAN government. Regular surveyance flights over Mexican territory, the establishment of ‘coordinating’ offices in Mexico City and Nuevo León and the free circulation of armed agents of FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), ICS (Immigration and Citizenship Services), ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) and NSA (National Security Agency) does not appear to be the kind of close bilateral cooperation that PRI would prefer.

Despite restrictions on US involvement in the fight against organised crime and other domestic issues, it appears that we are far away from a definite adiós to the Monroe Doctrine in the hemisphere. Certainly, old style military interventions seem unlikely, but new IT resources, the interdependence of global markets and transnational societies have provided a new arsenal of interference tools that perhaps can prove to be ever more effective than traditional ones.….

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WEF Latin America 2013

WEF

Since yesterday, more than 400 personalities, including heads of states and representatives from the private sector, academia and civil society, are gathered in the Peruvian capital, Lima, to participate in the 2013 World Economic Forum (WEF) Latin America. They will  discuss about challenges and  opportunities around the topic of “delivering growth and strengthening societies”.  Latin America has registered constant rates of economic growth in recent years.  However, there are big challenges ahead in terms of inequality and exclusion, and especially insecurity.

The program of the  event is organised around the following three pillars:

1) Modernizing economies for growth.

2) Strengthening society through innovation.

3) Building resilience for sustainable development.

Follow live panel discussions on: http://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/dg_e/dg_selection_process_e.htm

Program:  http://www.weforum.org/events/world-economic-forum-latin-america-2013/programme

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Post-Chavez elections in Venezuela — OpEd in The Australian by ANCLAS Senior Associate Sean Burges

ANCLAS senior associate Sean Burges has an OpEd in today’s The Australian discussing the role Brazil might play in ensuring that the presidential elections required in Venezuela after Hugo Chávez’s death satisfy democratic requisites. The full pre-publication text is below and the published version of the text is linked here.

Pre-publication text:

Venezuela’s president Hugo Chávez has just died after a prolonged battle with cancer. While his death certainly raises questions about the longevity and sustainability of his Bolivarian revolution, it also stands as a significant test of the democracy promoting credentials of Brazil and the two important regional clubs it runs: the South American political grouping UNASUR and the trade bloc Mercosur.

Venezuela’s presidential succession procedures are clear. Article 232 of the constitution mandates a new election within thirty days if the president dies during the first four years of their term. The question many are now asking now is if this vote will happen – vice president Nicolas Maduro says ‘yes’ – and how democratic it will be, which is open to debate based on past precedent.

Historically, a free vote on schedule would satisfy Brazil’s pro-democracy requisites. But, events in 2012 suggest Brazil may now be valuing the spirit as much as the process of democracy. Venezuela’s upcoming vote stands as a test of this new pro-democracy policy in Brasília.

On 22 June 2012 Paraguay’s Liberal and Colorado parties joined forces to impeach leftist president Fernando Lugo in a process that many in the region now call a ‘coup-peachment.’ Strictly speaking, the process was legal, but politicized to the point of farce. Charges were laid, a congressional trial held, and a conviction delivered in less than a day.

What astonished many was the degree of political pressure Dilma exerted in Mercosur and Unasur to punish the political factions that had deposed her leftist ally, suspending Paraguay from both groupings. Suggestions that she was simply playing ideological favourites were strengthened when Brazil refused to take a similarly strong stance against Venezuela when Chávez failed to take his oath of office in January.

Such criticism may have been a bit unfair and missed the nuance in Brazil’s approach. Brazilian presidential foreign policy advisor Marco Aurelio Garcia offered the opinion, which became his country’s policy, that he agreed with the Venezuela Supreme Court judgment that as a re-elected president Article 234 of the constitution allowed Chávez up to six months leave of absence before a new election would be necessary. In an act of quiet bureaucratic resistance Brazilian diplomats pointedly noted that Article 232 still applied and that prompt elections would be required if Chávez died within the next four years.

With new elections now required in Venezuela we have an opportunity to see if there has been a real change in Brazil’s regional foreign policy to advancing substantive democracy or if the Lula-era tradition of selectively advocating a brand of pro-leftist democracy remains in place.

Make no mistake, the upcoming election in Venezuela is going to be difficult and divisive. The obvious strategy for Maduro will be to wrap himself in the mantle of Chávez’s memory while Capriles will likely resume his message of bringing Chávez’s social welfare policies to a sustainable path. All of this is an expected part of electoral politics. Where matters get tricky is the extent to which Maduro deploys executive presidential powers to artificially boost his campaign. One standout tactic from the October 2012 election was Chávez’s proclivity for mandating lengthy broadcasts of ‘government service’ programming to preempt television coverage of Capriles campaign events.

Another question is whether or not the military and security forces will take on the role of passive spectator expected in a consolidated democracy or if they will directly or covertly interfere with the campaign. Indeed, the temptation for political intervention by some sectors in the military will be immense if reports about their links to narcotrafficking and organized crime are correct.

Brazil has the back-room influence to prevent these sorts of violations of the democratic spirit of an election. Dilma as well as key advisors such as Garcia have enormous influence with the Chávez faithful. Moreover, Dilma’s 2010 presidential campaign advisors are likely to again play an important role in the pro-Chávez electoral push, fulfilling much the same role as Clinton campaign hothouse Carville and Associates did around the world in the 2000s. A behind the scenes steadying hand on Maduro-camp temptations to unduly exploit their position of power will be essential to the country’s future political stability. Venezuelans will know if the election is gamed, which would erode the credibility of a possible Maduro victory and further polarize the country. But if he were to win in a truly clean race it could create the conditions needed for a national political reconciliation. The same holds true for a possible opposition win. Even if uncomfortable for diplomats, helping to make this happen is exactly the sort of responsibility that goes with the regional leadership role Brazil has been claiming in South America. Post-Chávez Venezuela may prove to be Brazil’s first real test.

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ANCLAS Senior Associate Carlos Pio on the situation in Venezuela

ANCLAS Senior Associate Professor Carlos Pio had a piece on the situation in Venezuela published over the weekend in the main Brasília newspaper Correio Braziliense. The article is in Portuguese, but Pio’s main point is that Chávez is to blame for the uncertainties Venezuela faces today. Chávez has never tried to create a fully democratic regime, one structured upon solid institutions that can engage both the majority of his supporters and the vocal minority that rejects him in games of electoral competition and policy compromise. Instead, he chose to change the country’s name–to resemble that of his political movement’s; to persecute journalists, trade unionists and NGOs; to curb rights to private property and free information; as well as to arm groups of supporters. As a result, inflation reached 30 percent a year, investment, productivity and access to hard currency fell sharply, crime soared and the economy became even more dependent on oil exports.

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ANCLAS Senior Associate in the Australian on Chavez succession

ANCLAS Senior Associate Dr Sean Burges has an Op-Ed in today’s The Australian newspaper discussing the delay of Hugo Chávez’s inauguration for another term as president and what it might mean for future elections in the country. The website realclearworld.com has re-published the full text of the OpEd if you are unable to access  The Australian’s paywall.

 

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Corruption, Brazil and governments of the left and right

If you’re following Brazilian politics you know that a number of very uncomfortable questions are being asked about the Worker’s Party (PT — Partido dos Trabalhadores), Lula’s former inner coterie, former president Lula himself, and corruption. The organic intellectuals, to use a term that the Gramscians on the left in the PT might like, are kicking into high gear and trying to provide a justification that will wipe away some of the cloying mud that is starting to stick to their side’s public image.

Carlos Alberto Sardenberg has just published a penetrating OpEd in the Rio de Janeiro newspaper O Globo that takes on these arguments with a very critical eye. The Portuguese version is linked here. (A quick Google translation is below because it is the holiday season… not fully satisfying, but it gives a sense of the piece’s content). Where all this will lead is an interesting subject for debate, and one that is very much vibrant and alive at the moment. What might be most interesting to watch is how Dilma will handle a potential maelstrom of corruption allegations and investigations that directly implicate her patron, Lula. So far she’s let Lula hold-overs caught on corruption charges swing in the wind. Such an approach might not be so easy with an ex-president who was instrumental in her election. As Sardenberg notes, like Lula she didn’t win election in the first round, but had to go to a second-round run-off.

Robbing for the people

Author (s): Carlos Alberto Sardenberg
O Globo – 20/12/2012
Intellectuals linked to the PT are flirting with a new theory to deal with the monthly allowance and other episodes like, would be inevitable, and even necessary, to steal a good popular government.

This is a clear response to the weight of events. Lifter inmates, their friends and dedicated Shiites, anyone with a minimum of apprenticeship feels comfortable with the story of the “farce of media and judiciary.”

If, however, there is evidence that public money was stolen and that political support was bought with public money, they have two options: either disembark from a heroic project that turned banditry or, well, join the thesis that all government steals, but the leftist steal and do less to include the poor.

We have seen two recent manifestations of this supposed new theory. In “Leaf”, Fernanda Torres in defense of Dirceu, drew inspiration from Shakespeare to speculate: maybe impossible to govern without violating the law.

In the “Value” Renato Janine Ribeiro wrote two columns to complete: Communist revolutionaries do not steal, steal reformist leftists once in government, but “might” have to do this to ensure the social inclusion policies.

Lifter false theoretical sophistication, this is the update very old thing. Yes, the reader guessed it: the staff are retrieving the “steals but does” created by ademaristas in the 50s. Now is the “steals but distributed.”

Nor is it surprising. Also in the recent election period, Marilena Chauí Maluf had placed on the list of mayors paulistanos filmmakers works in group Faria Lima, and out of the class of thieves.

It is so because: Dirceu is not corrupt, or gangster – but corruption and participated in the gang because if he did not, would not apply as the program’s popular PT.

How do you get this amazing stop-gap theory? Fernanda Torres offers a clue when he comments that the PT is taken as the party of the Brazilian people. Now, it follows, if the elites are a bunch of thieves acting against the people, what’s wrong to steal “for the people”?

Renato Janine Ribeiro works on the same theory, adding cases of leftist governments succeed and corrupt. It is not clear whether they are successful “despite” corrupt or, rather, for being corrupt. But for this last thesis is that the author leans.

It makes sense, of course. Begins is not true that every Conservative government is against the people and corrupt. Thatcher and Reagan examples maximum right, not robbed and brought great prosperity and welfare to its people. Here among us, and to go deep, Castello Branco and Medici also not robbed and their administrations brought growth and income.

On the other hand, the PT is not the people. Represents part of the people, the majority in the last three presidential elections. But attention has never won in the first round and opponents always have at least 40%. And in the first round of 2010, Serra and Marina did 53% of the votes.

Therefore, in democracies the government can not do everything, you have to respect the minority and this is done by respecting the laws, including the prohibition of stealing. And by respect for public opinion, expressed, among other ways, by the free press.

Why do not tolerate these limitations, the authoritarian parties, right and left, impose or try to impose dictatorships, explicit or disguised. They think that because they are the legitimate expression of the people, everything can.

So we fall back into old thesis: the ends justify the means, steal and murder.

Renato Janine Ribeiro says that Communist regimes have committed the sin of extreme physical violence, eliminating millions. But they were ethically pure, argues: liked limousines and dachas, but not put public money in his pocket. (By the way, take note here: this is a preview for a possible defense of Lula, when they begin to show signs that the former president and his family abused more perks than you know).

As communists, we say, were not “pure” by virtue but by impossibility. There was no private property, so that the corrupt were unable to build personal wealth. They stole money from his pocket and reserving part of the apparatus of the state, while the people they represented starved. Pure?

Notice: In China, a mixture of communism and capitalism, leaders and their families amassed, yes, large personal fortunes.

Returning to our Brazilian case, let’s speak frankly, no one needs to be a thief of public money to distribute Bolsa Família and raise the minimum wage.

They want it all?

Dilma can approve the MP ensures that a fall in electricity bills. The National Electricity System Operator says there will be more blackouts because there is no way to avoid them without investments that require higher fares.

That is, the account will be cheaper in compensation vai outa

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Filed under Brazil, Corruption, Democracy