From Colombia to Mexico - concluding my Diplomatic Offensive in Latin America

Source: Ph. (Phil) Hogan i, published on Friday, February 12 2016.

Following upon my visit to Colombia earlier this week, I have had the pleasure to continue my "Diplomatic Offensive" with a much anticipated visit to Mexico.

I am especially pleased that I am the first EU Agriculture Commissioner to visit Mexico.

The main aim of this campaign is to support our exporters in fostering the EU's position as the world's top exporter. Mexico is a key trading partner for the EU in Latin America. This visit is about reaffirming our commitment to deepen and develop bilateral links.

As my colleague, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström noted last year, our history and peoples are deeply intertwined. As an Irishman, I was fascinated to learn about the Saint Patrick's Battalion which fought as part of the Mexican Army in the Mexican-American War of 1846-8. Mexico and Europe are natural partners, and the ties between us are already strong. We share languages, and we share a love of good music, good food and good drink. There are Mexican communities in many parts of Europe, and Mexico has ethnic communities from almost all 28 Member States of the EU.

First and foremost, this visit has been all about trade. The EU and Mexico have a Trade Agreement from 2000 that both sides have agreed to modernise and convert into a fully-fledged and comprehensive bilateral agreement.

Since then, our trade has grown by almost 250%. The EU has become the second largest destination for Mexican exports, and the third largest source of its imports. But it has now run its course. Sixteen years is a long time, and many things have changed since the year 2000.

To this end, I met authorities directly involved in future Free Trade Agreement negotiations such as the Secretary of Agriculture Calzada, the Secretary of Economy Guajardo and the Members of the Committee for Agriculture of the Senate. As country of 125 million people, Mexico is a dynamic economy that offers significant opportunities for EU agri-products.

Developing the Free Trade Agreement is vitally important, but there are many issues we can address together outside the scope of a future agreement. Making progress on a number of issues can speed up the process of opening trade and business.

As an example of good cooperation, during this visit, Secretary Calzada and I announced talks on organic agriculture - the aim is to achieve mutual recognition of equivalence. And we confidently expect to see progress on the removal of a number of trade barriers on the Mexican side.