Former President of Mexico Vicente Fox delivered a talk last week to an expatriate audience at San Miguel de Allende’s Real de Minas hotel. He shared his global perspective and wisdom accumulated since leaving office in 2006. Here are some of his key insights on the U.S. and Mexico going forward:
On Mexico: We’re not the little guy in the backyard anymore. We are the world’s 11th largest economy. We are accountable for 10 million direct jobs to citizens in the U.S. There is no country more competitive in manufacturing than Mexico.
On free trade: Over the years companies such as GM have nourished their competitiveness because of NAFTA. We have built this very successful venture together for 22 years. The lessons of history concerning trade are very clear. We can do more together than separately.
On economic opportunity: Twenty years ago the income ratio between the U.S. and Mexico was 10:1. Now it‘s 5:1. I believe that within a generation it will be 1:1, as it is between the U.S. and Canada. As this improves, more people will choose to stay here.
On drugs: The Mexican people don’t consume or produce drugs significantly, but there is a $55 billion market in the U.S. for drugs. It’s difficult to stop people from going that way when the market is so enormous. This is a shared problem, but the responsibility also goes back to us. The government cannot replace the job of parenting. We all have to share in the work of looking out for our children’s future.
On immigration: Eleven million is a fabricated number. There’s no way to count the number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. right now. You cannot detect them by color because that would violate human rights, and to discriminate so aggressively will not work for the American people. We all want to get rid of criminals, but the U.S. also needs our workers to keep its economy moving. Who else is doing the work of harvesting, nursing and sustaining in the fields and on the streets, in the places where they contribute in so many ways? As for immigration reform, I worked with President Bush and senators across the aisle on a bi-partisan bill to devise an integrated solution. Unfortunately, this was never enacted. It has been stuck in Congress since then.
On the ideological divide: This ideological divide prevents things from getting done and it’s happening everywhere in the West. People are digging into their ideological roots and not wanting to change. They say, “I’m a Republican (or a Democrat). I always have been and that’s how I’ll stay.” But this attitude is holding us back. The East is rising above ideological divisions and focusing on innovation and jobs.
On globalization: There’s a power shift and a market shift from North America to the East. China is the second largest economy and is poised to become the first. What will come of our values when this happens? It will be our job to carry those forward.
On the presidency: Running a country is not the same as running a company. It took me years to figure that out. President-elect Trump will eventually learn what I learned. This isn’t a platform for making deals – it’s about caring for society. In the 200 years since creating democracy, we’ve seen waves of people saying, “We need change.” Yes, sometimes we do, but change in the right direction.
On becoming great: Here’s what I learned from my friend Deepak Chopra: get yourself five minutes of silence each day. Get inside yourself. There is no human action that doesn’t start and end with purpose, and the purpose for our lives must be heroic.
The takeaway for Americans in the audience was that we and our neighbors to the south are inextricably linked. Together we must embrace innovation and competition, as well as cooperation and collaboration. That is how North America will stay strong and competitive in a global economy while increasing opportunity, prosperity and well-being for us all.
Image courtesy of Harvard Political Review