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Vicente Fox Quesada is an unusual politician. The former President of Mexico was the head of Coca Cola's operations before plunging into politics. When he took office in December 2000 (for a 6-year single term as limited by the Mexican constitution), he was the first politician who did not belong to the Institutional Revolutionary Party which had dominated the country's polity for the previous 90 years.
Popular even at the time of stepping down, with approval ratings of more than 70 per cent, Fox has since then worked in building a presidential library, the 'Centro Fox' a centre of study for the advancement of democracy, a library and museum. India is Mexico's 16th largest trade partner with a bilateral trade hovering at $4.15 billion Vicente Fox Quesada
Centro Fox is working with UST Global an IT company with large operations in Kerala to train Mexicans in information technology. The former president on a visit to India also met with 90 other senior Indian business executives requesting them to work with his not-for-profit centre to promote leadership training across Latin America and also improve trade ties. Fox along with UST Global's CEO Sajan Pillai sat down for an interaction with BW's Venkatesha Babu to talk about how Indian companies could leverage Mexico to tap into US and Canada apart from the broader Latin America market. Edited Excerpts :
Unlike most former Mexican presidents you have chosen a very visible and active post retirement life...
For a long time, unfortunately, we had a one party rule, centralised and authoritarian, and my presidency changed that. In the past, former presidents would hide away, run away or just disappear after their stint of power. I want to change that. India and Mexico have a modest bilateral trade of $4.15 billion in 2011 which grew by 40 per cent over the previous year. They are looking at achieving $15 billion by 2020. What more can be done to enhance that?
I think the main challenge is distance and for us the United States looms so large, that sometimes we forget to pay more attention to other relationships. I think a lot has been done to improve bilateral trade but there is greater potential. India and Mexico traditionally have shared friendly ties. China and India, which are both emerging powers, is where the action is and Mexico wants to work with them.
We admire India's growth rates and its prowess in technology. Mexico wants to learn from that. Because of the North American Free Trade Agreeement (NAFTA), we have easy access to United States and Canadian markets. Mexico has Free Trade Agreements with 43 major nations covering 75 per cent of the world economy. Mexico can be India's entry point to the broader Latin American market. Mexico also has a large domestic market and is the largest Spanish speaking market. We want Indian companies to take advantage of Mexico's strategic location.
Indian IT companies such as TCS, Infosys, Wipro and HCL apart from several pharma companies which include Dr Reddy's, Torrent Pharma, Sun Pharma and Wockhardt have operations in Mexico. What are the areas where the two countries can work together?
My visit here is for multiple purposes. One is to learn. What has been done in Bangalore is a miracle. We want Mexico to learn creating such technology companies. I am impressed by the business dynamism here.
Right now a large portion of our trade is around petroleum products, a little bit is around agricultural products and a few other things. Through Centro Fox, we want to attract and facilitate investment in manufacturing and other areas too. My Centre works closely with the government back home as well as with several large corporates. We can play a facilitating role.
Are you also working with Mexican companies like Cemex, Cinepolis and Homex which have operations in India?
Trade is a two way street. While I am not the official ambassador or trade promoter on behalf of Mexico, as a former President, I and my Centro Fox, will do everything to improve and smoothen trade ties. A major reason for my visit is what we are doing with UST Global, which will train 30,000 Mexican youth in technical skills. My centre is looking for those kind of partnerships. To promote trade ties, people to people contacts.
Sajan Pillai : We recently opened a Mexican hub at Leon, which is a 'offbeat' destination for an IT company. The strategy is very similar to what we have done in India. Instead of being in the usual IT hubs like Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai-Pune or the Noida-Gurgaon belts, we chose to base a large part of our workforce in Kerala.
By doing that we attract the best of local talent and also loyalty is very high helping us keep attrition low. We are working with Centro Fox to train 30,000 Mexicans in technology and English language skills in the next 24 months. These will be for the entire IT world and not just for UST Global. We are spending a couple of million dollars on this exercise and we expect that other companies would also join us in this effort.
The Carlos Slim group is already training around 10,000 people and with Centro Fox, we think, if we build human capacity it would help Indian companies find talent who can in turn help them address the Latin American market.
Fox: The area which UST has chose already has a large industrial base but mostly in manufacturing. Pirelli has a large tyre factory, Volkswagon and General Motors have world class plants there. We have a large shoe manufacturing base with 1200 companies loacted here. While we had a manufacturing base, what we were missing was the new, knowledge economy companies. That is why companies like UST Global are so welcome. We will facilitate interactions with academia — Mexico has some very good academic institutions — private sector companies and local government.
As a number of international customers in technology arena look for India plus one strategy to (diversify risk), Mexico could be that country. We provide mobility of talent between the US and Mexico because of NAFTA.
The 21st century belongs to Latin America. It has one of the fastest growing economies in the world. My Centro Fox wants to work with cross section of people, academics, business persons and ordinary citizens in Indian to promote, culture, trade and better understanding. We will continue to champion the cause of better relationship between Mexico and India.