Jörgen Persson Sweden Ambassador to México

Editor’s Interview 

How do you grade the competitiveness of Mexico to receive Foreign Investment?

Mexico is very competitive already. Swedish investments are flowing which indicates that Mexico is attractive for foreign investment, as is being seen for my Country. 

I believe also that if the structural reforms now discussed and debated by the Mexican Congress, if they are successful by the implementation of these reforms, Mexico automatically will become more attractive for foreign investments. 

Mexico already has competitive clusters where an example of success is that basically all the big car makers are present in Mexico and so on interesting clusters are growing.

Security in Mexico also needs to be strengthened to boost investment.

What is your plan of action to strengthen the bilateral relationship between Sweden and Mexico?

We are working hard. I think we are trying to reach a proximity approach. We need to work on a higher political level, promoting business and we have a business office doing that. 

At the embassy we also have cultural – political facts for a lot of activities in Mexico. We move between the highest and the lowest level and in between. 

So we just had a visit by the Swedish Prime Minister. This is an example of the highest level we hope to see the Mexican President soon in Sweden. We have seen Ministries, business delegations, representatives of the academia, students at various levels moving between Sweden and Mexico.

We would like to welcome more Mexicans working and studying in Sweden and vice-versa.

So I think we have to work in many levels and there is so much to do, because there is a lot of interest in Sweden for Mexico and in Mexico for Sweden. 

Recently we just inaugurated the Grupo de Amigos de Suecia and around 7 or 8 parliamentarians are going to work with them. We are trying to promote more our relations in that level. There is much to do! 

What is the current situation of the diplomatic relationship between Sweden and Mexico and what can you highlight from the recent visit of the Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt to Mexico?

These actions symbolize in a very good way our relationship. This is the first visit of a Swedish Prime Minister since the mid 80´s and is really reflects our growing interest which is very clear here. The visit all the way from Sweden is because He wants to see it how is going on in Mexico with all these things taking place like the reforms and the potential of the economy, but also in many other fields.

So I can´t complain. It is a very positive moment of this bilateral relation. 

Which are the most important results of the latest visit of Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt to Mexico?

Yes. First of all the symbolic action and having all these meetings of our Prime Minister with the President of Mexico opens the possibility to really know each other at that level. They spent 3 or 4 hours together, so it is very symbolic to expect more to happen next. 

Then the Prime Minister meets with the minister for trade and quite a big business delegation. So we were very lucky with a wide range of actions. We had seminars in various sectors. We had one in innovation where the Prime Minister participated 

We also had seminars in health care, public transport and so there were various occasions for these people to meet their Mexican counterparts. 

Difficult to say when it would start, but we really made a difference for many companies and we will see in the future more business thanks to this visit.

On this one, the business delegation was extremely happy. I expect many businesses coming after these meetings. 

What is the current situation of the commercial relationship between Sweden and Mexico?

We had a curious situation when it comes to export and import. Swedish exports are growing and 2012 recorded US$1 billion and they grew compared with the previous year 2011. That one goes in the right direction. 

The imports from Mexico are not unfortunately at that level. So for the moment it is pretty low and that is a potential for Mexican business to increase their presence in Sweden.

I really think that there is good potential to grow in both directions. I think Swedish are much present here and we have around 150 companies having some kind of activities here. Erikson has been here for over 100 years. With all of these companies, we see sectors with a lot of growth potential. We can see transport with Volvo and Scania. In health care a lot of companies met with our Prime Minister. Telecommunications reform opens for new investments and new competition that will be interesting of course for Erikson.

We have mining industry with companies like Atlas Copco and other firms. 

Then for imports I have some things to say about that. I have statistics that exports from Mexico are going to other countries. We have a free trade agreement by the European Union with Mexico and that needs to be upgraded. Swedish has been a free trade promoter country like Mexico and what we would like to see for the upgrade of opening the market for the agricultural products for instance that would be a boost for Mexican exports.

And then what is really lacking in Sweden is the Mexican Investments. We see that investments and trade go together. Many of the Swedish companies that have invested here are also the biggest exporters for Erikson, Volvo and other companies that have factories here and they do buy a lot from Sweden to be able to assemble here, so that means that Swedish investments here have increased the Swedish exports to Mexico.

Which are the areas of opportunity to strengthen relations between Sweden and Mexico?

We are really trying to promote. We want to see more Mexican students at Swedish universities and vice-versa. I think basically this is the best thing to do to streghten the relations between the two countries. 

Recently we had a road show in Monterrey, Leon and Puebla where we had visitors from Sweden from the Embassy taking part in events to promote affectively the Universities in Europe in order to attract students. 

We also would like to receive students for the post graduate, master and doctorates and to have more presence of the two countries. 

There is one more thing I would like to express. We have a very open immigration policy. In the labor market is easily to get a work permit once you get a job. 

It is always more that can be done. I really think that in educational we can do more because that´s more of the future. 

What is the current situation for bilateral investment between Sweden and Mexico?

Roughly 150 companies are present in some way in Mexico. That doesn’t mean they have invested in the country, but they have representatives. I have big examples such as ABB, Atlas, Erikson, Tetra Pack are some of the big ones. 

Sweden is an important country. It is the 12th largest investor in Mexico from 1999 to 2013 where they invested almost US$2 billion. They are present in Nuevo Leon mostly, Jalisco and Mexico City.

All these companies are constantly working on the future. They are investing; I can’t tell you how much they will invest. 

We have made a business study asking the companies about their plan and it is done every year as a business climate survey. The answer when it comes about investment, I have a few and as a trendy the automotive sector has had the highest expectations of grow followed by the telecomm, IT and software service sectors. All is according to the Swedish companies.

I can´t tell you that new companies are coming this year, but it is a constant that Swedish companies are looking for business opportunities.

Which areas of opportunity are being seen by Swedish Companies to invest in Mexico?

According to the survey the automotive sector is the most attractive. I would say the whole market is attractive. Once you reach the consumer market you have a lot of potential and we see it coming now. You see many companies producing for the Mexican market. Let’s say that Volvo is producing for the Mexican market, Erikson investing in “tecnoparques” where they have engineers getting services to all the appliances in the western hemisphere.

We see Electrolux producing from the factory in Ciudad Juarez to the North American market. We see a wide range of activities here. The opportunities here depend on every company.

What is the role that Mexico plays for Swedish investment for North America?

The NAFTA and Free Trade Agreements in general make Mexico very attractive for production. You have some companies located in order to produce here and export to the United States. But, it depends on the companies, but of course the North American market is important. Of the Mexican exports, 80% go to the US and Swedish production wants to take part of that share.

What is the level of satisfaction of the Swedish companies with their operations in Mexico?

I have some figures on this question because I refer to the Survey “Business Climate Mexico on 2013”. From our survey despite challenges we expect economic growth. None have experienced a negative growth or finished the year without any positive change. Eighty-seven percent expects Mexico to be more profitable. The majority is pretty satisfied and they rate high on the Mexican suppliers. 

What is your impression of the economic situation of Mexico during the first year of Government under Enrique Peña Nieto?

I have to admit that the growth is slower that what was expected. There are some reasons for that. The US Market is not growing as expected. Investments went down because of the change of government, so the growth in 2013 was lower than expected, but I believe if the whole package of reforms are approved and the “Pacto por Mexico” will pay off and we will see the payoff during 2014. 

The Mexican economy also depends on the US growth. I think most Mexicans agree that exporting to the same market is a little too much. It needs more diversification on its commercial relationship. That is why in the European Union we would like to promote more imports and exports. 

Any last comment for the MexicoNOW subscribers?

Come to Sweden to study, to work, study, invest, or come as a tourist. It is an interesting country. You all are very welcome to my country.