After hosting the first “Mexico Day” business summit at the Mansion House, followed by the State Reception for President Nieto of Mexico in the Guildhall when he visited the UK last week, now seems an opportune moment to reflect on our trading relationship with the rest of the globe.
Looking at Mexico’s economy, things are incredibly positive. It is an open market for companies with an international outlook, particularly those with a financial and professional services background. It also remained remarkably resilient during the financial crash due to its sound regulatory framework, solid management of public finances, and taxation reforms.
And the UK is in a good position to take advantage of this encouraging outlook. First, we have strong historical links: we were the first European country to recognise Mexico’s independence in the mid-nineteenth century, with President Nieto previously saying that our nation is one of “Mexico’s closest allies”.
But I think we are in a better position for a second reason: our ambitious companies already want to trade. By the end of the year, our aim is to double trade with Mexico to £4.2bn and we are edging ever nearer to that figure. We already have excellent UK Trade & Investment teams in Mexico’s fastest growing cities – Mexico City, Monterrey, Guadalajara and Tijuana.
In addition, only last year my predecessor as lord mayor, Dame Fiona Woolf, visited the country, and I will be visiting in July this year trying to drum up more business. And with over 20 Mexican companies having substantial operations in the UK – including Cemex, Mexichem, Monex and Aeromexico – inward investment is buoyant. Moreover, Mexico can act as a springboard into the Americas for UK firms, as well as being an attractive market in its own right.
But things are not always as good as they seem. We still trade two and a half times more with Belgium than we do with the whole of Latin America. As the former foreign secretary William Hague put it, for “too long the British presence in Latin America has been too small, too reticent and too modest.”
Some people talk about global trade as a competition where one country’s success is another’s failure. I don’t think this is true. But I am well aware that the challenges and opportunities that the UK and Mexico face are the same – finding and treading a path to sustainable economic growth, and supporting a modern market economy with a good standard of living and opportunity for all.
Only 24 hours after welcoming President Nieto to the City, I was again addressing senior politicians and business leaders at Mansion House, where I made the point that we do have a number of reasons for businesses to be optimistic in this country: employment levels at a record high, take home pay improving, and entrepreneurship booming. But we are still a long way from reaching the ambitious export target of £1 trillion by 2020.
So my message is simple: get out there to new markets like Mexico, because we in the City are fully behind you when you take that ambitious step and trade with the world. As I said at Mansion House to the cheers and nods of agreement from those business leaders in the room – UK plc has always been faced with a choice: be open and thrive, or wear blinkers and fail.