Billionaire businessman Carlos Slim has described confrontation between the federal government and the business community as “stupid” and called for the parties to work together for the good of the country.
In a discussion with outgoing Business Coordinating Council (CCE) president Carlos Salazar, the magnate said that conflict doesn’t help anyone or anything.
The CCE, an umbrella organization of 12 business groups, was critical of the government for its lack of support for business during the pandemic, has raised concerns about its energy sector plans, and criticized it for its plan to dissolve autonomous public agencies.
Meanwhile, President López Obrador has been accused of being hostile toward business, especially foreign companies in the energy sector, as he seeks to increase the state’s participation in the economy.
In addition to tension between business and government, Mexico, like many other countries, has a polarized electorate, with López Obrador enjoying strong support but also facing significant condemnation, especially for his frequent attacks on the media.
Slim, owner of companies such as Telcel, Sanborns and Carso Infrastructure and Construction, opined that the business sector hasn’t given the government the respect it deserves.
“I believe that when a government is elected democratically it has to be respected,” he said.
“… You have to try to provide them with propositions, ideas and programs, but having conflicts that are sometimes capricious or ideological is nonsense,” said Slim, who was once the world’s richest person.
“Confrontation is stupid, it damages Mexico, it damages companies, it damages the government and it damages everyone,” he said. “What we must do is work together … so that we come out of this situation of underdevelopment,” he said.
Slim charged that Mexico has missed many opportunities in the past and must now take advantage of those generated by the USMCA, the North American free trade pact that replaced NAFTA in 2020.
“Today we have a great opportunity in which the active participants have to be the businesspeople of the United States and Mexico rather than the politicians. The governments already did their work and we haven’t done ours,” he said.
The 82-year-old tycoon said that Mexican industry should be taking greater advantage of the trade war between the United States and China by manufacturing more products here to sell in the U.S. market.
By increasing exports to the United States – the world’s largest economy – salaries will increase here and consumers will have more money to spend in the Mexican economy, Slim said.
But Mexico’s business sector has so far “done nothing” to take advantage of the USMCA, he claimed, although many others believe the trade agreement has benefited the economy amid the recovery from the sharp coronavirus-induced slump.
Slim called on business to act more quickly to reap benefits from the pact, and also stressed the importance of investing in education and health care as part of efforts to mitigate inequality.
In a topical aside, he asserted that Mexico should look to the Ukrainian people as an example of what can be achieved when people bind together for a common purpose.
“We have to look at what the Ukrainians are doing, confronting a powerful army,” Slim said, referring to their stubborn resistance in the face of Russia’s invasion. “Instead of giving up, they’re defending their country, and here we are fighting each other, dividing ourselves.”