Scientific Director of the RAS Institute of Latin America, RAS Corresponding Member
The model of the Russian-Mexican relations has not taken final shape yet. Russian-Mexican relations are somewhat asymmetric due to the disproportion between the scope of specific political, diplomatic and cultural components that outbalance the scope of trade and economic relations. After many decades, economic relations have significantly improved. Last year, trade turnover reached two billion dollars although before it had never surpassed the figure of one billion. We can say that Mexico is becoming a pilot country, which gives a convincing demonstration that promotes Russian exports.
Speech by Vladimir Davydov, Director of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) Institute of Latin America, at the Roundtable “Russia and Pacific Alliance: Opportunities for Expanded Cooperation”, RIAC, September 30, 2014.
Russian-Mexican Relations: the Imperatives of Development at the Present Stage
Dear Igor Sergeevich,
Your Excellency Mr. Beltran Guerrero, Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Mexico to the Russian Federation,
Dear Alexander Valentinovich ,
Dear Eduard Rubenovich ,
Dear Valery Ivanovich ,
Respected participants of the discussion,
Since I belong to academia, it would seem that I have fewer restraints in expressing my opinion without mincing words, than, say, Alexander Valentinovich. However, he allowed himself to be quite frank and I would like to continue in the same spirit. I sincerely hope to succeed at least partly in this.
Naturally, I am relying on the Report, prepared by a group of experts on Latin America with Vladimir Sudarev as the Project Coordinator from the Institute of Latin America. Valery Morozov also made a significant contribution. I believe that the moment has come to reevaluate and reconsider the experience of our collaboration and cooperation with the country which undoubtedly occupies a special place in the political, economic and cultural life of the modern world.
Well, first of all, I have in mind the “border” aspect that manifests itself in many ways. The country neighbors the most developed Western state and is exposed to its overwhelming influence which, nevertheless, has not affected Mexico’s remarkable ability to maintain its national identity.
Secondly, the Mexican nationality exists in two large communities divided by the Rio Grande. We can say that the Mexicans are one of the largest divided peoples in the world. And in this regard we can find some similarities with the situation in the Russian Federation.
Russia — Mexico. We Have to Be Much More
Realistic in Our Judgments
Thirdly, Mexico is undoubtedly located at the strategic intersection of key routes of economic activity, namely the transatlantic and the transpacific ones as well as the meridional chain of new relationships in the form of the Pacific Alliance, which we will discuss this afternoon. And I believe that's a very good combination of topics for discussion at today's meeting.
Finally, we should take into consideration the special role of Mexico in the Latin American community. Mexico has been and remains the cultural capital of the Spanish-speaking Americas and in many respects its scientific capital, the birthplace of influential ideological and philosophical currents that have acquired a regional dimension. You may argue and will probably be right that over the past two decades this role has somewhat weakened due to Mexico’s economic orientation towards the North. However, since the end of the previous administration, the values in terms of strategic orientation of the country have been undergoing a process of reappraisal.
Generally speaking, looking at the modern map of Latin America, we see two most influential regional centers (or poles) of power. They are Mexico and Brazil. In some ways, perhaps, Mexico has weakened its presence and influence in the Latin American region over the last two decades. As far as I can judge from reading about the issue and my discussions with representatives of the political and academic circles of Mexico, the country’s society and elite are making serious efforts to restore its position in Latin America. This has manifested itself in many ways, and Alexander Valentinovich has already spoken about this, referring (among other things) to Mexico’s proactive role in the formation of the Latin America-wide organization CELAC – the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.
As to the content and the imperatives of Russian-Mexican relations at the present stage, I would like to emphasize that our Report is called Traditional Foundations and Imperatives of Renewal not without reason. We believe that in the current environment, which has changed dramatically for Russia and in many ways for the international community too, an imperative exists for serious critical analysis. I think that this makes our discussion today as relevant as ever. We have to challenge different stereotypes. So, we traditionally used to regard Latin America and Mexico as a “backyard.” Clearly, it has nothing to do with the contemporary reality, despite all the hegemonic potential of Mexico’s northern neighbor.
However, new stereotypes are being created. Alexander Valentinovich has already mentioned the fact that Mexico is often perceived as a country that has little in common with Latin America. Mexicans traditionally believe (and at present this belief is gaining ground) that in the past the foreign policy of the country had a competitive advantage because of its multi-vector nature. This quality has been lost, and, in my opinion, Mexico now is very interested in returning to the pursuit of a multi-vector policy. I believe that without this, the country runs the risk of losing face in the international community. That is our position, reflected in the Report.
Speaking of Russian-Mexican relations, we shouldn’t shift the blame from ourselves for having left certain things unfinished and failing to make adequate assessments. Mexico’s regional leadership has been weakened in recent years. But historically it is bound to manifest itself in the international arena and strengthen in the future. Russia is interested in intensifying this line of activity in Mexico’s foreign policy.
I think that so far the model of the Russian-Mexican relations has not taken final shape yet; it has not been defined and does not appear to be optimal. Russian-Mexican relations are somewhat asymmetric due to the disproportion between the scope of specific political, diplomatic and cultural components that outbalance the scope of trade and economic relations. But this, in a way, may serve as a certain positive indicator and should not be interpreted as a congenital malformation of Russian-Mexican relations. Of course, we should not restrict our relations in political, diplomatic or cultural spheres to bring them in line with insufficient economic cooperation, but rather enhance economic cooperation to bring it in harmony with existing political, diplomatic or cultural ties.
After many decades, economic relations have significantly improved. Last year, trade turnover reached two billion dollars although before it had never surpassed the figure of one billion. And it was due not to commodity sectors, but to medium and high technologies, including the supply of aircraft. Alexander Valentinovich mentioned the breakthrough agreement between the United Aircraft Corporation and one of the national Mexican air carriers: under the Contract, the Mexican company will receive a total of 20 aircraft and there are plans to purchase another 10 aircraft. In this regard, we can say that Mexico is becoming a pilot country, which gives a convincing demonstration that promotes Russian exports. We should not forget the experience of many years of delivering Russian helicopters to Mexico. I do believe that this particular area provides Russia an excellent opportunity to strengthen its position in the market of Latin America in the short and medium terms.
So, once we resolved to undertake a critical analysis of our relations and our policy towards Mexico, we have to get rid of some kind of inferiority complex. What do I mean? I mean that Russia, despite our lamentations and indulging in breast-beating, has a huge amount of unrealized export opportunities in a wide range of segments. The vast country has tremendous opportunities, talented engineers, and gifted young people. I wonder why at the state level we have not taken serious measures for promoting non-conventional items of Russian exports. Until now, it is a very serious drawback of our policy.
We have yet another stereotype. Talking about the Asia-Pacific Region, we usually mean Asia. However, ladies and gentlemen, the APR includes Latin America too. I think that at the next session, which will focus on the Pacific Alliance, we will illustrate it perfectly well. This region now displays the dynamism of development that surpasses the one in the Atlantic zone, and we should solve many problems and eliminate many of the drawbacks in our policy, including the export one. I am confident that Mexico can become a very interested partner for cooperation in the Asia-Pacific Region, strengthening security there and intensifying economic, trade, and investment activity. It is impossible to immediately break a record in the high jump if your starting point is quite low. The process of involving new export resources of Russia will probably unfold step by step. I think that the Russian-Mexican segment of relations in the Asia-Pacific Region should not be limited to energy only, although it is becoming increasingly important, especially in light of the liberalization of relevant legislation, which was covered at length in the Report.
Russia has huge reserves of deep processing, reasonable, rational and efficient operations of marine, fish and forest resources. Provided that we follow the path of the purposeful promotion of deep processing of our resources, we can adopt the experience of some Latin American countries. Take the Republic of Chile, which over a single decade has included a wide range of timber industry products in its list of exports. And Chile, by the way, does not have such abundant forest resources as Russia. The example of Chile – this Latin American Tiger – can be quite instructive for us. And there are marketing outlets for these products in Mexico, the United States and a number of Latin American countries of the Pacific coast.
When the world passes through times of troubles, making forecasts is quite difficult. Perhaps, in this situation, it is worth being led by intuition. It appears that a dramatic geopolitical cooling of relations will continue for some time, say, two or three years. This has happened before, which suggests certain analogies. I am sure that the serious work of our diplomacy (and our diplomacy is quite skilful and has an excellent school) does help us a lot out of difficulties. So, Alexander Valentinovich, we are pinning great hopes on you. I believe that détente is inevitable, and the role of Latin America in this process can be fundamental for us. The continent has already displayed common sense; it has demonstrated its friendliness towards our country and culture.
The Pacific Alliance: History, Goals, Relations
with Observer States, Achievements
To reinforce this trend, it is necessary to build a bridge of dialogue between the civil societies of Mexico and Russia. Maybe, our discussion will result in the launch of a pilot project to this end. Of course, it is quite appropriate that we are discussing the issue at the Russian International Affairs Council. Igor Sergeevich, please think about this initiative, you are in a position to set it in motion. I don’t think that there will be spectacular breakthroughs in our relations with Mexico in the medium term. We are in for a period of a tough and tiring work to promote diplomatic, academic, economic and trading relations. And this work has to be done in a coordinated manner. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is performing the coordinating function, but in the current situation it can do no more than it can. I believe that a civil dialogue and a civic initiative can intensify the efforts of our diplomacy so that we can act in unison.
Dear colleagues, I still have many considerations that I would like to share with you, but I do not want to dominate your attention. I am extremely grateful to all of you. I think we have a worthy topic and a worthy discussion. Thank you for your attention.
Russia and the Pacific Alliance: Mutual Interests
I think that in terms of assessing the new project of the Pacific Alliance, our diplomacy has assumed a position which is responsible, on the one hand, and delicate on the other. What makes me say so? I remember the recent speech by Deputy Minister Sergey Ryabkov and its general tone. I think that the Russian Federation would favor consensus decisions in Latin America. On this premise, we, generally speaking, are aware that the birth of the Pacific Alliance and its first steps have not enjoyed unstinted support throughout the whole Latin American community. Thank God, the process of blurring out the tensions that have occurred in the recent past seems to be gaining ground. I believe that Russian diplomacy is interested in the success of the dialogue that has begun. This is one thing.
Then, it does not matter much if it happens in the short, medium or long term. The Russian Federation is objectively interested in acquiring a status in this organization, provided that the regional dialogue is maintained. The advanced and quite realistic nature of the integration scheme adopted by the Pacific Alliance, is another consideration that speaks in favor of it. It is put into practice not only in the countries of the Pacific Alliance. The Pacific Alliance reflects the concept called “open regionalism.” It adopts the rather successful experience of variable-speed integration in Southeast Asia. Moreover, I believe that when the Russian Federation studied the integration experience abroad (in addition to that of the European Union, of course) for the Eurasian project, it focused mainly on Mercosur. In my opinion, this study should be supplemented by the experience of the Pacific Alliance. Why? Because Eurasian integration faces a difficult problem due to both the geopolitical and economic imperatives of absorbing a number of post-Soviet countries that have different conditions, different levels of welfare and so on, and so forth.
Guiding by geopolitical imperative often results in the neglect of opportunities of economic rationality. I think that this scheme, which was tested in the Pacific Alliance, is able to promote the integration in many directions, for example, within the framework of the Customs Union. The second round, like the periphery of the Eurasian integration, can take up a slightly different pattern. And, in my view, this pattern could be based upon the experience of the Pacific Alliance that has an economic minimum program. The latter is quite feasible. It's not an ambitious project and can be implemented very vigorously. As we understand the situation now, the time has come for a quick economic move and, if you ask me, quick policy. In this light, I believe that supplementing the Eurasian project with a scheme similar to what has been done in the shortest historical period by the Pacific Four, makes sense. Thank you for your attention.
1. Alexander Shchetinin, Director of the Latin American Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry
2. Eduard Malayan, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation in the United States of Mexico
3. Valery Morozov, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation in the United States of Mexico (2005-2012)