Mexico’s President López Obrador has an interesting perspective on his international role as the leader of the country.
Just a few weeks ago, he stated: “And I maintain, I’ve always thought, that the best foreign policy is domestic policy.… If we do things well here, they’ll respect us abroad. If we don’t do our work here, they could look down on us abroad. The most important thing is to look after one’s home.”
It’s an interesting perspective, and he clearly has focused primarily on domestic issues and opportunities in his first five years in office. However, I strongly believe that it is a historically important time for Mexico to raise its profile on the global stage and project more confidence – swagger even – than it has in the past.
I think that part of the reluctance for Mexico to do this comes from growing up in the shadow of a (much) bigger sibling. I have found that Mexico has often compared itself mostly on economic metrics to the US – metrics such as GDP growth, GDP per capita, and total GDP. The result has left many Mexicans feeling the country is “economically inferior”, and that has manifested itself in broader negativity I’ve come across about the country’s prospects from its citizens.
I often find myself defending Mexico in debates with Mexican friends and colleagues: as a good business investment option, as a place with a bright economic future, but also even on its politics. Despite their many flaws, Mexican politicians do seem to get some significant things done. Of course, it is also a country with incredible culture and a strong sense of family, but I find that many Mexicans focus on the negatives of Mexico, while I find myself focusing on the positives of Mexico, when compared to other countries.
It’s easy to criticize one’s home country (we all do it), but at the end of the day, if Mexicans do not start believing that their country has a very rightful place among developed nations, how can they expect others to see it? Mexicans should be proud of the fact that so many businesses and individuals from around the world are increasingly wanting to invest, travel and live in the country. Yet I rarely hear a positive perspective on this. Why don’t more Mexicans celebrate the fact that it is increasingly a destination for immigrants from around the world?
Companies from around the world are increasingly looking to Mexico as an excellent place to invest. If you were the leader of a multinational company looking to grow, consider your other primary options: China? Russia? South Africa? Brazil? India? Eastern Europe? Each of these options has benefits, but increasingly, many have very significant downsides as well. Of course Mexico isn’t perfect, but there are good reasons so many companies are investing here – why don’t more Mexicans celebrate this?
India is an interesting case study. For so many years, Indians compared themselves to the U.K., the U.S., and China. However, over time the country has begun to take much more pride in itself. The government came up with a great advertising campaign called “Incredible India”, and its current leader has undeniably promoted Indian pride and many Indians abroad are looking back to their native country to invest. This pride, confidence, swagger – if channeled correctly into investment and attracting talent – ultimately can result in a positive cycle of growth for the country.
Mexico can learn a lot from this I think. As we celebrate with pride the Mexican independence holiday this weekend, perhaps it’s time to start thinking about a “México Maravilloso” campaign?
Travis Bembenek is the CEO of Mexico News Daily and has been living, working or playing in Mexico for over 27 years.