Saturday, June 15, 2024

German president visits Mexico; seeks to expand trade and energy partnership

Trade, human rights and the supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG) were among the topics discussed at a meeting between President López Obrador and German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Mexico City on Tuesday.

President Steinmeier, Germany’s head of state and a former vice-chancellor of that country, is in Mexico with his wife for a three-day state visit.

López Obrador said on social media that his meeting with the German president, his wife Elke Büdenbender and representatives from the German public and private sector was “very important.” 

We discussed issues of economy, trade, human rights, justice and peace,” he wrote.

AMLO and President Steinmeier
President Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany in discussions with President López Obrador.

His tweet came hours after he described Germany as an “important partner” and longstanding investor in Mexico during remarks at his regular morning press conference.  

The meeting between the two heads of state came after a formal welcoming ceremony at the National Palace, the seat of executive power and López Obrador’s residence. Steinmeier, whose role is more ceremonial than political, was scheduled to visit Mexico over two years ago, but his trip was postponed due to the pandemic. His visit is the first to Mexico by a German president since 2011.

After meeting with López Obrador, Steinmeier told reporters that “the Mexican president offered to step up cooperation on liquid gas,” but didn’t offer additional details. 

Germany and other European countries currently face a LNG supply squeeze as Russia has progressively cut off access to the fuel via pipeline. LNG can be transported in tanker ships, but Mexico doesn’t currently export the gas commercially, the news agency Reuters reported. It was unclear whether Mexico planned to begin shipping LNG to Germany, although Steinmeier seemed to suggest that it would.

In addition to meeting with López Obrador, the German president addressed Mexico’s Senate, where he noted that his trip to Mexico had been postponed and acknowledged that the world has changed due to the pandemic.

The friendship between Germany and Mexico, however, has not changed, and I am very glad about that,” he said, according to an official English transcript of his address

“… For decades, our countries have stood side by side in both the political and the economic context,” he said. “Our economic relations are strong and close: over 2,100 German companies operate in Mexico, employing some 300,000 people, and I am pleased that many of them are trainees, learning and working in the dual vocational training system,” Steinmeier said.  

There are just under 470 cooperation partnerships between higher education institutions in Mexico and Germany,” he added. “And German companies, too, value the great potential demonstrated by this country, by its young people, in research and development. Our two countries share close ties – 70 years of diplomatic relations speak for themselves – and Mexico is an important, highly valued partner for us.”

German president Steinmeier at Mexican senate
Steinmeier also addressed Mexico’s senate on Tuesday.

“The aim must be to keep this partnership fit for the future,” Steinmeier said. “And so it would be very gratifying if the modernized [free trade] Global Agreement between Mexico and the European Union could be concluded soon.

A new trade agreement between Mexico and the EU was reached in 2018, but it hasn’t yet been ratified by lawmakers.

Continuing his address, Steinmeier condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and declared that “the democratic world,” including Mexico, must stand together in opposition to President Vladimir Putin’s “brutal violation of the rules.”

If we, Germans and Mexicans, are to emerge stronger from this conflict, if the democratic world is to emerge stronger from this conflict, then we must maintain a common line,” he said. “We must be united in our response to an aggressor who is trying to replace the strength of the law with the law of the strong.” 

Mexico has condemned Russia’s invasion of its neighbor, but its support for Ukraine hasn’t been as strong as that of many other nations.

For example, Mexico abstained in a United Nations vote that suspended Russia from the UN Human Rights Council over reports of “gross and systematic violations and abuses of human rights in Ukraine.” Mexico also refused a request from Ukrainian lawmakers to send weapons to aid in their fight against the Russians.

In addition, a peace proposal recently announced by López Obrador was described by a high-ranking Ukrainian official as a “Russian plan.”

Steinmeier also spoke about environmental issues, including climate change and declared that the world is grateful that Mexico is “a pioneer in seeking an international biodiversity agenda for the UN.”

We are grateful that you are protecting your country’s vast treasures for the benefit of the whole of humanity,” he said, although Mexico’s government has faced criticism for its alleged lack of concern for the environment and global warming.  

In doing so, you are, in fact, protecting the livelihoods of all people, whether they live in Mexico City or Berlin, Islamabad, Kyiv or Moscow. I firmly believe that if we work together, we can slow down climate change with its repercussions,” the German president said. 

Steinmeier also said that Germany wants an enhanced partnership with Mexico, declaring that “we want to expand our social, political and, not least, economic ties.

That is why I am here – and that is why I thank you for the honor of addressing the Senate,” Steinmeier said.

For his part, Senate President Alejandro Armenta Mier highlighted that two-way trade between Mexico and Germany was worth almost US $25 billion last year. He also said that Mexican lawmakers are working through the ratification process of the new free trade deal with the EU with a view to approving the agreement and thus contributing to “the strengthening of the ties” between Mexico and Germany. 

With reports from Reuters, La Jornada and Debate

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