Sunday, March 3, 2024

What are the key takeaways for Mexico from the G20 Summit?

Mexican Economy Minister Raquel Buenrostro was among the dignitaries who descended on New Delhi, India, last weekend for the 2023 G20 Summit, the eighteenth meeting of leaders of the world’s largest economies.

Here are five “Mexico-relevant” takeaways from the summit, which was perhaps most notable for a softening of the language used in reference to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the decision to admit the African Union as a 21st member.

Raquel Buenrostro at the G20 summit
Economy Minister Raquel Buenrostro traveled to the G20 summit this year. President López Obrador has not attended any of the summits during his term. (Secretaría de Economía/X)

By not attending, AMLO (once again) showed where his priorities lie  

While heavy hitters such as United States President Joe Biden, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese Premier Li Quiang discussed global issues, President López Obrador was thousands upon thousands of kilometers away in South America, where he met with Colombian President Gustavo Petro to review the fight against drug trafficking and joined Chilean President Gabriel Boric to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the death of former Chilean president Salvador Allende.

Since becoming president in December 2018, AMLO has attended exactly zero G20 summits, demonstrating through his non-attendance that he – as he often says – is squarely focused on issues at home.

The president – who frequently asserts that “the best foreign policy is domestic policy” – showed this year that he is more interested in regional issues (such as migration flows, the drug trafficking problem and possible economic integration) than global ones.

U.S. President Joe Biden, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and South Africa’s President Cyrus Ramaphosa were some of the world leaders in attendance at the summit. (The White House/X)

In fact, during his presidency, López Obrador has only traveled abroad to other Western Hemisphere nations.

Another factor in his decision to skip this year’s G20 summit, and many previous meetings of world leaders held outside Mexico, may be his stated dislike for lengthy air travel.

Buenrostro is a highly trusted member of cabinet (and well placed to promote Mexico as a nearshoring destination)  

Former foreign affairs minister Marcelo Ebrard – currently licking his wounds after his presidential ambitions were greatly diminished if not entirely quashed when Claudia Sheinbaum was announced as the ruling Morena party’s candidate – represented López Obrador (and Mexico) at previous G20 summits and numerous other meetings of world leaders.

Raquel Buenrostro at G20
Buenrostro is a key member of López Obrador’s cabinet and has been prominent in advocating for nearshoring investment in Mexico. (Secretaría de Economía/X)

With his successor, Alicia Bárcena, in South America with AMLO, Economy Minister Buenrostro was assigned the not insignificant task of leading Mexico’s delegation to the Republic of India.

The decision to send Buenrostro to India is an indication of her high standing in the López Obrador administration and could also be linked to her suitability to selling Mexico as a destination for foreign investment.

During the G20, the economy minister participated in a meeting with the leaders of the MIKTA (Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey, Australia) group and spoke about the need to support each other to “take advantage of the relocation phenomenon,” according to an Economy Ministry post on the X social media site.

While the G20 summit isn’t an investment forum, having one of the government’s top nearshoring advocates talking to world leaders about the advantages Mexico can offer to foreign companies is not inconsequential.

It’s worth remembering that Buenrostro previously headed up the federal tax agency SAT and thus knows the tax system – and the tax incentives on offer in certain parts of the country – inside out.

Mexico raised issues that are directly relevant to the lives of Mexicans

According to a joint statement issued by the Economy Ministry and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mexico at the G20 Summit “achieved the inclusion of priority issues”, including:

  • The fight against poverty and inequality.
  • Inclusive development, with gender equality as a cross-cutting theme.
  • The fight against trafficking in small arms and light weapons and against international illicit drug chains.
  • The promotion of safe and regular migration.
  • Increased cooperation to eradicate the trafficking of cultural property and the appropriation of the living cultural heritage of indigenous peoples.

Poverty, gender inequality, violence perpetrated with firearms smuggled into the country and migration are among the most pressing issues Mexico faces today, affecting tens of millions of Mexicans in myriad direct and indirect ways.

G20 summit 2023
Mexico highlighted the issues of poverty, migration and illegal trafficking of weapons at the summit. (SRE/X)

Their inclusion on an agenda for a meeting of the world’s most powerful countries – in addition to issues such as the war in Ukraine and climate change – will always be better than non-inclusion.

Mexico’s large economy gives it access to an exclusive club 

The G20, of course, is a group made up of the world’s largest economies. Mexico qualifies as the world’s 14th largest economy with GDP of approximately US $1.4 trillion in 2021, according to the World Bank.

As one of the developing countries within the G20, Mexico has an enviable opportunity to advocate for the global south, and took advantage of it in New Delhi.

In addition to the issues cited above, Buenrostro “highlighted the importance of eliminating debt for poor countries and ensuring that middle-income nations [can] get loans at the same interest rates as developed countries,” according to an Economy Ministry (SE) statement.

Membership in the G20 also gives Mexico an opportunity to sell itself on the world stage – and not just as a destination for investment.

In New Delhi, Buenrostro touted the government’s employment/reforestation scheme called Sembrando Vida (Sowing Life) and outlined progress the López Obrador administration has made in combating poverty and corruption.

While AMLO was absent, world leaders in India last weekend at least heard about the priorities his government is pursuing.

A fashion faux pas?

Buenrostro’s choice of footwear during her first G20 appearance – black Crocs – was a hot topic among Mexican social media users over the weekend.

“It’s an embarrassment,” journalist Carlos Lara Moreno wrote on X.

Claudia Villegas, another journalist, posted a photo to X that showed that another person at the same New Delhi event was also wearing Crocs.

The shoes Buenrostro wore at her first appearance at the G20 drew attention from media back home. (G20/X)

“Strange, isn’t it? Could it be that they [both] left their shoes [at the entrance] as an act of respect? In India, footwear used outside is considered dirty and impure and is always removed before entering a home. … The same can be said for temples and other places considered sacred,” she wrote.

The government, as of Monday evening, hadn’t made an official comment on “Crocgate,” which may have received more coverage in the Mexican media than the G20 Summit itself.

By Mexico News Daily chief staff writer Peter Davies ([email protected])

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