Merethe Nergaard Norway Ambassador to Mexico

Merethe NergaardEditor’s Interview

How do you grade Mexico’s competitiveness for Foreign Investment?

Mexico is a very attractive country for foreign investment. According to international rankings Mexico is the 7th most attractive country and number 53 in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report.

It represents a huge economy. It is the 14th largest economy in the world, not a BRICS but a MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria & Turkey). In addition, the country recently received an “A” rating from Moody’s. It is an open economy and its closeness to the U.S. and Latin American markets as part of NAFTA and the Pacific Alliance is a great advantage.

It has a very high internal demand for technology, a young, cheap and qualified labor force and among other things it features low production costs. In addition to this, the Mexican government is there offering a very promising and ambitious reform-agenda.

What is your Action Plan at the Embassy in terms of strengthening the Norway and Mexico bilateral relationship?

The main focus will be to increase trade and investment between the two countries. We already have a Free trade Agreement with Mexico. It has been in place since 2001 through the EFTA.

We want to upgrade the FTA to include trade in services. The opening up of the energy sector as a part of energy reform leaves a lot of potential for further cooperation between the two countries and our respective companies.

In November we plan to have the so-called Nordic Business Days in order to match particularly green technological businesses from Norway with their Mexican counterparts.

Let me also mention that we are not only promoting Norwegian economic interests, but we are also continuously concerned for the respect of human rights in the countries where we are represented. We therefore support civil society organizations in Mexico working to defend freedom of speech, human rights, journalists and the rights of indigenous groups.

We already cooperate closely with Mexico in multilateral organizations on human rights issues, disarmament, climate and humanitarian issues.

We are pleased with the Mexican government’s decision to reopen the Mexican Embassy in Oslo. This is a proof that the Mexican side is also keen on strengthening our bonds.

There were several high level visits to Mexico from representatives from our former government. We certainly hope to continue this tradition with the present leadership.

We are also looking forward to receiving representatives from the Mexican government when their embassy is reopened in Norway.

What is the current status of the diplomatic relationship between Norway and Mexico?

We have had diplomatic relations with Mexico since 1906. Traditionally the relationship has been friendly and respectful. Now our relationship is going through its best period ever.

What is the current picture of the commercial relationship between Norway and Mexico?

Bilateral trade in goods grew by 129% from 2002 to 2013. It went from US$101 to US$275 million, but still remains modest. There is a huge potential for growth.

Mexican exports to Norway are mainly manufactured goods, especially iron and steel pipes, turbo-reactors and turbines. Most of the Norwegian exports are also manufactured goods like telephones and wireless networks, mineral and chemical fertilizers, as well as natural gas. In addition, there are considerable exports of Norwegian services, particularly in the energy sector.

The Storting Building, Oslo

What are the areas of opportunity that you see in terms of strengthening relations between Norway and Mexico?

The main area for cooperation is of course in oil and gas. This is where Norwegian companies have long experience in exactly what is needed in Mexico–namely exploration and drilling in deep waters. There is also a great potential regarding renewables like hydro-electricity and solar-energy. And in the maritime areas we anticipate developments in marine management, fishing, shipbuilding and aquaculture.

What is the current position for bilateral investment between Norway and Mexico?

From January 2001 to December 2011, Norwegian companies invested approximately US$80 million in Mexico. There are currently 29 Norwegian companies with investments in Mexico.

What are the special areas of opportunity being looked at by Norwegian Companies for investing in Mexico?

The excellence of Norwegian companies in oil and gas and related services, renewable energy, green technologies and the maritime sector are well known worldwide. I think that these will also be the main areas of interest in Mexico.

What role does Mexico play for Norwegian investment in North America?

Mexico is not only a great platform for investments in all of North America, but also in Latin America.

What is the level of satisfaction for Norwegian companies operating in Mexico?

My impression is that most of the Norwegian companies are satisfied with their operations in Mexico. But you need the Three Ps: Patience, good local Partners and Prudence because of the high levels of corruption and insecurity in some areas.

Our companies tell me that it is possible to do business in Mexico while being true to Nordic values in things like being transparent and having zero tolerance for corruption.

What is your opinion on the structural reforms taking place in Mexico under the Government of Enrique Peña Nieto?

I think that the structural reform- agenda carried out by the Mexican government is quite ambitious, but overdue, particularly in the energy sector. It is a pity that it has taken such a long time before the energy sector has been opened up to foreign investment and technology.

Meanwhile, Mexico has been bypassed in competition by so many others. That is a lesson from “the Norwegian experience” in the energy-sector. We could never have done it without foreign capital and knowledge. In my opinion, more needs to be done when it comes to reforms.

This is particularly the case in order to ensure that the wealth is being better distributed among the people. There is a need for more comprehensive tax-reform. And, people must be made aware of the advantages for each and every one when paying taxes especially in regard to education, health, social services, infrastructure, and other things.

Any last comment for the MexicoNOW subscribers?

If you need further information about Norway and Norwegian policies or business do not hesitate to contact the Norwegian Embassy or visit us at
www.noruega.org.mx