MEXICO CITY – Making up for a 22 year hiatus in diplomatic relations since their establishment in the early 1990s, Kazakh Minister of Foreign Affairs Erlan Idrissov paid his first official visit to Mexico Sept. 18-19 to strengthen political dialogue, continue friendly relations and promote economic exchanges and cooperation between the two countries.
The visit, done at the invitation of Mexico’s Secretary of Foreign Relations José Antonio Meade Kuribreña, was full of both symbolism and substance.
During the trip, Idrissov met with Meade, participated in the Kazakh-Mexican business forum, lectured at the Matías Romero Institute and held bilateral meetings with the Mexican Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal and President of the Senate Miguel Barbosa Huerta. He also met with the former President of Mexico Vicente Fox Quesada and mingled with representatives of various Mexican companies.
During their talks, Meade said that despite the geographic distance between Kazakhstan and Mexico, the nations have much in common. Both countries are leaders in their respective regions, have large territories and natural resources and hold similar general development priorities and positions on international issues.
In turn, Idrissov noted, “My visit is the first ever high-level official visit from Kazakhstan to Mexico. Today I opened the Kazakh embassy in Mexico, which reaffirms our commitment to enhancing our partnership. We also welcome the decision of the Mexican government to establish its embassy in Astana next year.”
During the meeting, the two ministers agreed to continue political dialogue, explore increasing trade and investment and promote cooperation between the diplomatic academies of both countries. They also discussed multilateral, regional and global issues.
The ministers also signed a memorandum of understanding between their ministries of foreign affairs for a mechanism of consultations on areas of common interest. Another document signed by Idrissov and Meade was a memorandum establishing ties between the Academy of Public Administration of Kazakhstan and Matías Romero Institute to create opportunities for mutual training of diplomats and other professionals.
The ministers expressed their satisfaction with the growing partnership between Kazakhstan and Mexico within international organisations. In this regard, Idrissov thanked Meade for supporting Kazakhstan’s candidacy for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for 2017-2018.
One particular subject for discussion was the two countries’ efforts to promote global nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. While Mexico led the way in establishing a nuclear-weapons-free zone in Latin America under the Treaty of Tlatelolco, Kazakhstan and four other states in Central Asia have established a nuclear weapons free zone in their region (CANFWZ). In this regard, Idrissov expressed interest in establishing a dialogue between CANFWZ, established in 2009 under the Treaty of Semipalatinsk, and the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL) to explore possible cooperation between the two nuclear weapons free zones.
“We recognise Kaz as a key player in Central Asia and beyond,” Meade told the media during the press briefing the two ministers held after their meeting. He stressed that the two presidents, Enrique Peña Nieto and Nursultan Nazarbayev, twice met last year at the Boao Economic Forum and on the margins of the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, giving a major boost to bilateral ties. “We welcome a new chapter in our relations,” Meade said.
Speaking of the cooperation in nuclear disarmament, Meade mentioned Mexico’s active stance and leadership in this area including through organising the signing of the Treaty of Tlatelolco and hosting the second International Conference on Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons earlier this year. He went on to praise Kazakhstan’s contribution to global nuclear disarmament, mentioning both the renunciation of the world’s fourth largest nuclear arsenal following the break-up of the Soviet Union and the leadership on creating a nuclear weapons free zone.
Asked how the two countries can cooperate in this area, Meade said: “We can certainly cooperate and we can preach with our examples.”
Answering the same question, Idrissov said, “Kazakhstan has a dream of building a nuclear weapons free world through, among other things, a convention banning nuclear weapons. … Kazakhstan has put forward an initiative to adopt a Universal Declaration of a Nuclear Weapons Free World at the United Nations and will continue to work with our partners including Mexico towards that goal. … Disarmament and nonproliferation remain a permanent priority for both our countries and we will continue to work together.”
Separately, Secretary of Economy Guajardo hosted the Kazakhstan-Mexican business forum during Idrissov’s visit. The forum was organised by KaznexInvest and ProMexico and attended by representatives of the business communities from both nations.
At the forum, Idrissov provided a brief overview of economic and trade developments in Kazakhstan. He said the country is interested in building partnerships with Mexico in oil and gas, petrochemicals, engineering, mining, metallurgy, chemicals, textiles and food processing, as well as the production of construction materials.
Idrissov also highlighted Kazakhstan’s multi-vector foreign economic and trade policy, which is aimed at improving the nation’s business and investment climate while building a stable and attractive environment around the country.
“After Brazil, Mexico is the second largest trading partner with Kazakhstan in Latin America. Trade turnover between Kazakhstan and Mexico increased by 22 percent in 2013 and reached almost $122 million. There is no doubt that there is room for improvement and that’s why we are here today,” said Idrissov. The major exported goods from Mexico to Kazakhstan in 2013 were metal pipes, electric motors and generators, medical equipment, air and vacuum pumps, tractors, cars and other motor vehicles, molybdenum ore, alcoholic beverages, food products and chemical products.
He also invited representatives of Mexico’s energy sector to participate in the international specialised exhibition EXPO 2017, which will be held in Astana and focus on future energy.
Idrissov also spoke on Kazakhstan’s market economy, political system and investment initiatives during a lecture at the institute, the Mexican diplomatic academy.
In a bilateral meeting with Guajardo, the ministers noted the significance of then first ever business forum and expressed confidence that it will help establish direct contacts between the Kazakh and Mexican business communities. In this context, Idrissov proposed organising a return visit of the Mexican business delegation to Kazakhstan in the near future.
Guajardo expressed interest regarding cooperation with Kazakh businesses in the sphere of agriculture and food production.
The two also reportedly discussed cooperation in the framework of multilateral institutions, in particular, cooperation between Kazakhstan and the Organisation of American States and the Pacific Alliance, as well as an informal association MIKTA (Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey and Australia), countries with rapidly-developing economies.
In Mexico City, Idrissov also met with the former President of Mexico, Vicente Fox, who serves as an informal adviser to the current president. They discussed topical international issues and prospects of trade and economic cooperation between the two countries, including in the field of agriculture. Fox commended the dynamic development of Kazakhstan and the expansion of its presence on the international level, and expressed a desire to promote economic ties.
Idrissov then met with the Chairman of the Mexican Senate Miguel Barbosa Huerta and members of the Senate Committee on International Relations.
“Today is a special day for our countries, because we are announcing concrete steps to strengthen our cooperation, nearly a quarter of a century after the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries. Welcome to Mexico, your sister nation,” Barbosa said in his welcoming remarks at a very elaborately staged meeting.
In turn, Chair of the Committee on International Relations Gabriela Cuevas Barron, warmly welcomed the Kazakh delegation and pointed out the immense potential for cooperation, a point strongly supported by other senators who spoke at the event.
“There is an expression in Mexico, mi casa es su casa (my house is your house), and we want you to feel at home here. We are interested in the broadest cooperation in such areas as education, humanitarian sphere, management of migration and so on,” Cuevas told Idrissov.
During the meeting, the sides agreed to develop inter-parliamentary cooperation. The Kazakh Foreign Minister proposed creating a Kazakhstan-Mexico friendship group in the parliaments of the two countries.
Idrissov also said he sees a huge potential in the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAK) and informed that presently Kazakhstan studies possible ways of cooperation between Kazakhstan and CELAC.
“Today, Mexico opened its eyes and realised the true potential of our close cooperation,” Cuevas told Idrissov, looking him into the eyes.