Mexico City. For the Canadian ambassador to Mexico, Graeme C. Clark, two words define the current state of his country’s investors in the Mexican energy and mining sectors: concern and difficulties.
And in the same way, with a single sentence, he locates the possibilities of a solution: dialogue with the government.
It is not a suspended dialogue, but there are not many opportunities to continue with it, and part of my work as an ambassador is to say to the government and companies: here is space, to solve the problems we may have.”
He also points out that investments have not been withdrawn in these sectors, “but it looks complicated. On the subject of mining, it is not an opinion but a confirmation: there are no more new concessions; then, it is a matter of managing the investments that we have there ”.
Convinced that the diplomatic relationship between the two countries throughout 75 years has achieved complementarity based on their respective strengths, he breaks spears for Canadian companies with capital invested in Mexico, and in an interview with La Jornada on a wide range of issues, also talks about the condition of Mexican agricultural workers in the fields of Canada.
“On the issue of renewable energy, we know about the decision (of the government) and the complicated context not only for Canadian investors but also for several countries, and we want to try to clarify this situation” through dialogue.
In addition, on the frequently questioned performance of Canadian mining companies based in the national territory, Graeme C. Clarke assumes an emphatic defense:
“I understand the concern. Canadian mining operates in isolated, vulnerable areas of Mexico and many other countries. They provide employment in communities where there are none and social programs as well. They dialogue with the population, pay their taxes … “
And he adds arguments: “Mining is a complicated subject, even in Canada, in certain communities, let’s be frank. They are not well regarded, but I think there are ways to reconcile, to balance, on the one hand, the concerns of affected communities and, on the other, have socially responsible mining companies, which is the case of Canadian mining, which, I can assure, obey the law, the framework they have here in Mexico ”.
However, the diplomat points to security as one of the main concerns for mining companies in his country, although he also ponders the existence of good collaboration with the government in that regard. “We have talked with very high-level people who have helped us in certain situations,” he points out.
This week will take place the 2020 edition of the Mexico-Canada Alliance, a space par excellence for bilateral dialogue.
The diplomat says he has confirmed the participation of the Energy Secretariat, Rocío Nahle, “and for me, it is excellent news given that we have certain concerns, difficulties at this time with investments in that field.”
At the headquarters of the representation of his country, Clarke does not shy away from any issue of a relationship that he defines as one of true reciprocity, although not perfect.
He then goes there to evaluate recent events -June of this year- in the face of the death of three Mexicans assigned to the Temporary Agricultural Workers Program (PTAT) due to COVID-19 and before which the Mexican government suspended the sending of day laborers to Canada.
“The day laborer program is 45 years old. In general, it has been successful and a transparent, orderly and disciplined way of having a migratory flow to meet our needs in Canada and also to employ Mexicans ”.
Faced with this “general picture”, the diplomat expresses a mea culpa: “the pandemic is a terrible mirror in which all the weaknesses of our societies can be seen. And so, we have seen the treatment of indigenous peoples in my country, the elderly, problems of domestic violence … I am not hiding the fact that this health crisis has hit us very hard in Canada ”.
And within these affectations, Graeme C. Clarke locates the situation of temporary workers because there were “certain” farmers who “abused or did not properly organize the place where the day laborers live to maintain a healthy distance.”
However, he points out the “beautiful” example of collaboration between the governments of the two countries and where that of his country, he assures, has put resources on the table to correct, guarantee certain medical and social benefits for these workers, but also to make the corresponding inspections and close those where the law is not respected.
There is – he immediately assures – a great will of the government of his country to correct this situation, because “frankly, we need the presence of those workers as disciplined, hard-working as the Mexicans are.”
Then he closes the subject with the expression of deep gratitude for those who annually travel to his country “because they really allow Canadian agriculture to live, especially at the time we live”, but at the same time, he confesses saddened by the death of those day laborers. “I can’t imagine what it was like for them to die away from their family, their community, their wife …”
Graeme C. Clarke has been in Mexico for just over a year. He had been here before as a tourist and knew a lot about the country from his work in what he called Expedienté México 15 years ago.
He thus considers “an incredible luxury, a privilege” to be an ambassador here. He refers that when the problem of the application of visas to Mexicans by Canada arrived, it had already been resolved, although he specified: “visa issues are always very complicated. I believe that at this moment the situation is manageable and we will continue working with the Mexican authorities to see to what extent we can handle the migratory flow in a legal, transparent way and not in an irregular or informal way ”.
It refers then to the partial and even misinformed views of the citizens about both nations.
“It is true that Mexicans have an idea about Niagara Falls, the Canadian fall, and in turn, my countrymen do not know much about Mexico other than the beach or tequila, to give just a few examples. Yes, there is much to do in that sense and the answer in part I think is in education, the exchange of students.
He speaks with undeniable pride about the vocation of his country in education and how Mexicans look for the opportunities that are offered both for language learning and postgraduate courses and insist on being in that, one of the best routes to knowledge mutual and transcends stereotypes on both sides.
“Education is a Canadian calling. It is one of the things that we do very well. Post-secondary. We are welcoming, we have an international sensitivity. Diversity for us is not just a label, it is something we experience in our cities, companies, governments; and this translates into a welcoming environment ”for the Mexican who seeks to study there.
For Clark, the USMCA also represents a good instrument to provide exchange conditions and investment guarantees. “It will always be better to have such an instrument,” he says optimistically.
“I prefer a North America with USMCA than without it. At least we have rules, an institutional framework, certain guarantees, a way to resolve differences, and this is positive for you and us. We are in a relationship to three, which is sometimes complicated, asymmetric and I prefer to live as a relatively small country (we are the least in terms of demographic weight) and I prefer a situation where there are rules of the game ”.