NEW DELHI: The Mexican Ambassador to India Federico Salas talks on how the pandemic has changed India-Mexico ties, the Indo-US trade deal and on how the two countries can cooperate in different areas.
How has the pandemic affected India-Mexico ties? What were the challenges that you faced during the pandemic and how do you see India-Mexico relations evolve in the post-pandemic era.
It has changed relations in a positive way. We (India and Mexico) are some of the hardest hit countries in the world. It made us realise that we need to deal with health issues worldwide from a multilateral perspective, not only for the coronavirus pandemic but also for the future. Secondly, it brought us to a
closer dialogue with India in terms of purchase of vaccines. We offered our support and aid during the second wave here. Mexico and India are non-permanent members of the UNSC and this issue has been raised to ensure work is done globally.
The pandemic has brought us closer as we have a common challenge to face and we are trying to overcome it. Mexico has been looking with different eyes at the pharmaceutical sector of India and the potential it has not only with respect to Covid but other issues. We are working to acquire medicines from different labs in India for the Mexican health sector. There is a future there as well.
You had recently said that you could share your good and bad experiences with India on the trade deal with the US. Have you officially shared your experiences? What, in your opinion, is delaying the deal?
Mexico has negotiated a major trade deal with USA and Canada, the NAFTA in 1994 which was updated in June last year. We have had an extensive experience of negotiating with the US one of the most ambitious and state-of-the-art FTAs of the world. It was a complex negotiation. Mexico has always been open to share experiences and good practices in the negotiations.
The agreements are very complex. Even the first NAFTA took at least five years of intense negotiation and requires strong commitments by the negotiating parties. We had a hurdle when the finalisation took place in the final days of the term of George HW Bush. His successor had some issues with the agreement. It almost fell through. We then devised side agreements. We left the FTA intact and negotiated two side agreements on environment and labour. I have no details in this case (India-US trade deal) but these things take time and I am not surprised. Many sectors in different countries are protective and defensive of what might happen while negotiating with an economic super power like the US. However, that is not necessarily the case as Mexico has proved it.
Are there any plans of Mexico joining the Quad or any bloc with regard to the Indo-Pacific as you have stated that both India and Mexico believe in a rules-based international order?
No formal discussions on Quad have taken place but there have been discussions of academic nature and also on the concept of the Indo-Pacific. The concept is fluid and is still in the making. As we understand it, the Indo-Pacific extends from east coast of Africa to west coast of America. It is a
broad space where we can cooperate and it will happen in the future in a more complete fashion. We discuss issues like trade facilitation and investments. Our security interests in the South China Sea are limited but we certainly support the principle of free navigation and peaceful spaces as even though we do not have a physical presence, we have a commercial presence. Hence, we feel these spaces should be kept open and free.
Recently, environmentalist Jaydev Payeng signed an agreement with a Mexican NGO where the two parties agreed to take up plantation drives in 8 lakh hectares of land in Mexico. How do you see this collaboration given that climate change is a serious issue? Also, how are India and Mexico planning to cooperate on the issue of climate change?
Payeng went to Mexico last year to participate in an event where a foundation in Mexico decided to start working with him for plantation drive because of his experience. This is a private thing but we are very happy that this cooperation is taking place. We are working with India at the multilateral level. We have a mechanism in place through which we have been working with India and Germany to deal with pollution issues. The same measures used to reduce pollution in Mexico City may be effective in cities like Delhi and other cities. This is bilateral cooperation on this issue.
Any update on the dispute between the Khadi Village and Industries Commission and a Mexican firm on the registration of the Khadi brand and logo?
I do not have details of the particular case you mentioned but I can say that one of the good things that has happened in the relationship between Mexico and India is that the relationship has become more intense. There are some frictions and some disputes may arise. Fortunately, we have mechanisms to deal with this. We are negotiating with India, an agreement with regard to the protection of promotion of investments. It should be finalised by the end of this year.
With India assuming the presidency of the UNSC and Mexico also being a non-permanent member of the council, what sort of cooperation can we expect?
We are committed to India’s priorities and we will come up with our priorities for our presidency in November. We are supportive of India’s priorities like maritime security and fighting terror. We are working together at the council on many issues.