CALLING BORDERS a “living and ever-changing phenomena”, Mexico’s Ambassador to India Melba Pria said borders have their own cause-and-effect migration dynamics which are unlikely to be changed by “artificial actions” — a reference to US President Donald Trump’s plans to build a wall along the US-Mexico border.
In an interview to The Indian Express, Pria said if the US cracks down on H1B visas, Mexico will be “more than happy to have Indians relocate to Mexico”. She said “it is time to diversify our trade relations, and we are focussed on seizing that momentum for more Mexican companies to turn their attention to India”. Excerpts:
What is your view on Trump’s policy of building a US-Mexico border wall?
The view from Mexico is that a border, particularly one as busy, rich and lively as the border we share with the US, should be a place for interaction, prosperity and shared development. Our focus has been on establishing bridges for good neighbourly relations and the use of technology and infrastructure as allies to promote secure spaces.
During a telephone conversation, the presidents of Mexico and the US agreed to cease talk on the possible financing for a wall, in order to continue the dialogue on core aspects of the bilateral relation. This is proof that both countries are committed to maintaining their dynamic and complex relationship, despite any differences. The most important agreement reached during that telephone conversation, and one of Mexico’s solid beliefs, is that better results can always come from negotiation, as opposed to unilateral measures.
Will building a physical barrier stop immigration from Mexico?
Borders are a living, ever-changing phenomena: they obey their own cause-and-effect migration dynamics, which are unlikely to be changed by artificial actions. To overcome the problem of illegal immigration, it is necessary to address the causes and work on achieving prosperity for the entire continent.
There are several kinds of migration flows from Mexico, which have contributed to the prosperity of the US: it is estimated that the work of Mexicans represents 8 per cent of the American GDP. More than 570,000 businesses in the US belong to Mexican immigrants, which create jobs and generate around $17 billion every year in revenue. Over half-a-million Mexicans are high-skilled migrants studying or employed as doctors, engineers, and many other professions.
Moreover, the trend indicates that there are more Mexicans leaving the US than entering. A report by Pew Research showed that from 2009 to 2014, more than a million Mexicans left the US to return to Mexico, while an estimated 870,000 Mexicans moved to the US, resulting in an outflow of about 140,000 people.
Will such nationalistic and protectionist policies of the new US government be effective?
Both Mexico and the US are sovereign nations and one of Mexico’s main priorities is to interact with our neighbour as such. Therefore, specific policies of the US are not for Mexico to comment. Nevertheless, the economic value of Mexico as a trade partner to the US should be undeniable: the volume of trade between both countries is estimated at over $1,400 million per day, which means that Mexico and the US trade around $500,000 million per year.
In Mexico, we value the relationship with the US that we have built over several years and we are convinced that working together, we will be able to continue to move in the right direction. The dialogue with the new administration is just beginning and we will place all essential topics on the table. That means trade of course, but also immigration, border security, and the illegal traffic of drugs and weapons. Overall, Mexico will always have a commitment to the well-being of all Mexican citizens and respect for their human rights.
What is the possible impact on India-Mexico relations?
There have been Mexicans coming to India for some years now, with the intent of doing business in this promising market. The current situation has made it even clearer that it is time to diversify our trade relations, and we are focussed on seizing that momentum for more Mexican companies to turn their attention to India. Businesses have this way of advancing by themselves: increasing our trade and investment relations makes human exchanges automatically follow.
If the US does enforce some of its harsher immigration proposals, for instance, regarding H1B visas on which Indian IT companies are heavily dependent, we will be more than happy to have Indians relocate to Mexico. They will find that in Mexico, they are able to continue caring for the American market within the same time zone, at lower costs, with visa ease for their foreign talent and access to a pool of local skilled labour.
Our city of Guadalajara is already becoming a technology hub with the presence of at least 10 major Indian IT companies like TCS and Infosys.
What are the lessons learnt from the current episode?
Although there has been intense media buzz on the actions of the new US administration, the truth is that so far it has focussed on proposals and speculation, and there are not many concrete policy actions yet on which to comment. More than imparting lessons, I would say that Mexico will always believe in the importance of having concerted actions when dealing with disagreements between neighbouring nations. It will always be more effective to have solutions come from dialogue and negotiation than from unilateral imposition.