Strengthening a partnership
As Mexico and the Republic of Korea consolidate their status as “emerging economies,” the two nations are increasingly assuming higher responsibilities as “middle powers” in accordance with their global economic, political and regional relevance. This also is reflected in the positive evolution of bilateral relations.
Until recently regarded as developing countries, Korea and Mexico now are the world’s 14th and 15th largest economies; both nations are known rich cultures; their societies share common values regarding the promotion of development, peace, economic openness, public security, combating poverty, democratic participation and respect for human rights. In addition, both countries are increasingly recognized for their activism in international affairs and proven determination to assume responsible roles as global actors commensurate with their growing importance.
Bilaterally, in 2014 for the fourth consecutive year, the value of Mexico-Korea trade surpassed $15 billion, placing Korea as the sixth-largest trading partner of Mexico and Mexico’s fifth-largest importer. This sustained increase in trade is mostly due to the significant value chains that have been created between the two economies to serve their domestic economies and major regional markets. In the past two years, more than 100 new Korean direct investments were recorded in Mexico, bringing the accumulated total to 1,600 companies. Among new Korean ventures in Mexico, those in the automotive sector are especially relevant, in addition to ones already existing in the electrical and electronic sectors, appliances, steel, mining and others. Moreover, in late 2014, the first meaningful Mexican investment in the industrial sector in Korea took place.
Our bilateral economic relations are fostered through numerous promotion programs in Korea and Mexico, as well as new cooperation mechanisms that enable us to deepen the Strategic Partnership our two countries have had in place since 2006. In this regard, the horizons of cooperation are being expanded to beyond what we have already achieved, so as to include sectors such as health, biotechnology, communications, automotive, energy, mining, shipbuilding, knowledge society, transport and finance, among others. In particular, Mexicans highly value Korea’s development experience and its willingness to share the best practices. In this sense, knowledge sharing has become one of the most important chapters in our bilateral cooperation, covering experience in education, local and regional development, clean energy, intellectual property, labor practices, administration, logistics and public policy planning at the national, state and local levels.
Furthermore, it is important to add that our bilateral relations are not limited to economic links. On the contrary, the Korean and Mexican people are increasingly discovering their cultural affinities and share their respective ways of enjoying life. Last year, numerous presentations of Mexican music in all genres, visual arts, dance, literature, film, photography and, especially, Mexican food - whose popularity is increasing in Korea - enhanced Mexico’s cultural presence. At the same time, Mexicans enjoyed the expansion of the Korean Wave, or Hallyu, through numerous artistic manifestations in our country. As a result of such shared interests, 74,000 Koreans visited Mexico last year, while 10,000 Mexicans visited Korea.
Social exchanges also were boosted by our increasing cooperation in the field of education, including the promotion of Spanish and Korean language learning, student exchanges, scholarships, support for regional studies centers and frequent visits of teachers and researchers. Last year, more than 250 Mexican students participated in educational exchanges in Korea and more than 300 Koreans went to study in Mexico. There also are an increasing number of sports competitions involving our two countries, with many Mexicans competing in Taekwondo, the national sport of Korea, as well as in Olympic archery. In addition, Mexicans are coming to the fore in the Korea Baseball Organization.
All this is reinforced by intensive political dialogue and the search for new institutional arrangements. In this regard, 2014 was a particularly active year for meetings between our ministries, governors, legislators and business leaders.
Additionally, Mexico and Korea jointly promote numerous initiatives in multilateral forums like the United Nations, the G20 and APEC. For example, in September, Presidents Park and Pena Nieto co-chaired the Special Session on Financing during the Climate Change Summit convened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon. Mexico also had an outstanding role in the ministerial meetings on the environment, biodiversity and telecommunications held in Korea; we jointly promote the Green Fund for Climate Change and the Global Green Growth Institute; we are promoting UN reform; and we shared goals and tasks in promoting the Global Agenda for Development, in addition to other actions of bilateral cooperation, as well as several actions focused on Latin America and the Caribbean.
The joint promotion of the mechanism known as MIKTA deserves special mention. This is a consultative process initiated by Mexico in 2013 together with like-minded nations like Indonesia, Korea, Turkey and Australia, by means of which our five countries are looking to exert a positive influence on the international agenda, bridge the gap between developed and less developed countries, and promote better global governance and human security. Today, MIKTA is already recognized as a new benchmark in contemporary international relations.
According to the Asian calendar, 2015 is the Year of the Blue Sheep, a gentle animal with inner strength created during adversity. Therefore, this is expected to be a year of peace, harmony and lasting commitments. For Mexico and Korea, the New Year will bring plenty of increased efforts to advance all aspects of cooperation. We will keep moving forward in building a comprehensive partnership of mutual benefit for the long term, based on significant internal strength that each country has built over the past decades. Happy New Year, Year of the Blue Sheep!
*The author is ambassador of Mexico in Korea.
by Jose Luis Bernal