United under the principle of self-determination
Víctor M. Treviño has been Ambassador of Mexico to Ethiopia and Permanent Observer to the African Union since August 2016. He joined the Mexican Foreign Service in 1982 and has previously served as Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Mexico in Australia; Consul General in Phoenix, Arizona; Head of the Consulate in Brownsville, Texas; and Deputy Consul General in Los Angeles, California, among others. He has a BA in Political Sciences, a Master’s Degree in National Security and did graduate studies in Continental Security at the Inter-American Defense College in Washington DC. On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the diplomatic relationship between Ethiopia and Mexico, Ambssador Trevino talked to Samuel Getachew of The Reporter on the historic of the relationship, on Donald Trump and what Ethiopia can learn from the North American nation. Excerpts:
The Reporter: You have been in Ethiopian for a few years now. What have been some of the highlights of your time in the country?
Victor M. Trevino: It is an honor to be Ambassador representing Mexico in Ethiopia. I have been here for a year and a half and I’m delighted by the culture, traditions and people in the country.
I have so far visited amazing places such as Gondar and Bahir Dar in the Amhara Regional State and Hawassa in the Southern Regional State.
As Mexican Ambassador, I have worked closely with the Government of Ethiopia in order to strengthen the historical diplomatic relationship between our countries.
For instance, we have been working in a cooperation project known as “The Cochineal Integral Control” in the Tigray Regional State. Cochineal has become a pest, destroying tuna plants in Northern Ethiopia. As Mexico has a long expertise of using cochineal as colorant, we offer technical assistance to Ethiopian institutions in order to help farmers. The Tigray Regional State and universities of Guadalaraja, Mekelle and Adigrat, participate in this project.
We also encourage cooperation projects with the international maize and wheat improvement center (CIMMYT). For example, two Ethiopian researches are going to visit Mexico to participate in a special training course on wheat for February 22 to May 20 in the facilities of CIMMYT Mexico.
In addition to that, as the Construction Industry Development and Regulatory Bureau of Ethiopia was established, an Ethiopian Delegation visited Mexico last year. During this visit, Ethiopian officers visited the facilities of a Mexican company called CEMEX, which is one of the most important cement producers of Latin America.
There have been high-level delegations who have been visiting Mexico in recently years and you have also been part of the same type of delegation within Ethiopia.
Last December, an Ethiopian delegation visited Mexico and they wanted to know the Mexican experience in the management of diaspora affairs such as remittances and social programs for families of emigrants. Mexico has a big diaspora of over 20 million in the US.
Last year, in October, I had the opportunity to visit, jointly with the ambassadors of the US, Canada and Japan, the site where the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is being constructed. During my visit, I could appreciate the strong commitment of the Government of Ethiopia to construct this ambitious project for the benefit of its people and neighboring countries.
There is a historical relationship between Ethiopia and Mexico. Tell me about that?
Mexico and Ethiopia have been united under the principle of self-determination, which is a fundamental of international law and means that people have the right to choose their political status without any interference of other country. Based on this principle and the respect for sovereignty, Mexico protested and condemned the Italian invasion of Ethiopia at the nations league in 1935
Once Ethiopia was freed, both countries established diplomatic relationship in 1949. In 1954, Emperor Haile-Selassie became the first ever African leader to conduct a state visit to Mexico. During his visit, the Mexican government inaugurated the Plaza Ethiopia in Mexico City. Reciprocally, Ethiopia has a “Mexico Square” in Addis Ababa. After that visit, a first group of Ethiopians got scholarships form the Government of Mexico and stayed in Mexico to study.
Your nation has placed much emphasis on the power of education.
Mexico is convinced of the importance of education as a key to the development of any country. Through AMEXCID, which are Mexico’s international cooperation agency, we shares knowledge, experience and good practices of our educational institutions.
Annually, AMEXCID publicizes a scholarship call for application addressed to people who want to continue their studies at all levels in Mexico. More than 90 Mexican institutions participate and this call for applications is offered in more than 180 countries.
For example, in 2015, the Government of Mexico awarded scholarships for two Ethiopian students to continue their post graduate studies at Autonomous University of Baja California (both from Arbaminch University). The first student will finish his finish his Master of Engineering in March 2018. The second will finish his Doctorate of Science and Engineering in August 2018.
Additionally, we have promoted cooperation among Mexican and Ethiopian institutions. For example, the UNAM – a Mexican institution recognized as a one of the best universities of the America continent – signed a Memorandum of Understanding for educational cooperation with Addis Ababa University.
You are also your nation’s representative to the African Union. How is Mexico engaged?
One of the most important focal points of our foreign affairs policy is that Mexico becomes an actor in global responsibility. It means strengthen its global presence and participate actively in facing the challenges of our time. The fact that Mexico has an observer status in the African Union (AU) is a good opportunity to continue consolidating its position as a responsible actor.
Mexico shares values and challenges with the AU, such as orderly migration and free trade. It is a contributor country to the United Nations peacekeeping operations in Africa (MINURSO and MINUSCA) and it is convinced that cooperation between the AU and international partners, positively contributes to create mechanisms aimed at eradicating poverty, promoting equal opportunities for all and ensuring that people have access to basic services.
Nowadays, Mexico is co-facilitator of international negotiations process leading to adopt a global compact for save, orderly and regular migration. The results of this negotiation process and we will be presented in the intergovernmental conference in Marrakech, Morocco, at the end of 2018.
Ethiopian Airlines is due to introduce its direct flight to Mexico. How do you think that will help strengthen the trade relationship between the two nations?
Mexico’s economy has been transformed during the last decades. We are one of the most open economies in the world. It has 12 Free Trade Agreements with 45 countries and it is an active member in multilaterals and regional organizations and forums such as the Word Trade World Organization (WTO) and the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation and Development.
In this regard, we are glad that Ethiopian Airlines, the leading African airline, is interested in introducing a direct flight from Ethiopia to Mexico.
Once this service becomes regular, trade, investment and eventually tourism would grow. Mexican civil aviation authorities are finalizing an Air service Agreement.
How do you envision the trade between Ethiopia and Mexico to grow?
Mexico has the most diverse and developed manufacturing capacity in Latin America and seeks to diversity trade partners. We are aware that Ethiopia has experienced an important and sustainable economic growth during the last decade plus, particularly in its construction and manufacturing sector.
Needs of both countries can be matched and turned into opportunities to enhance trade and investment flows.
In this Embassy we have promoted trade through cooperation efforts. For example, as I said before, last year an Ethiopian delegation from the Ministry of Constriction visited Mexico City and San Luis Potosi City in order to observe Mexican experiences and identify best practices in the construction sector. This was a good opportunity to identify business opportunities.
Moreover, we have promoted among Mexican private companies and business associations the Second International Agro-Industry Investment Forum that will take place from March 5-8 in Addis Ababa. Therefore, it is clear that we want more of Ethiopia in Mexico and more of Mexico in Ethiopia.
The Embassy brought a renowned Mexican chef last year to Sheraton Addis. What was the reaction like?
Mexico, like Ethiopia, has one of the most wonderful gastronomic traditions around the world. Mexico and Ethiopian cuisines have coincidences in combination of vegetables, spicy meat and colors that produce amazing flavors and aromas. As Mexico has tortilla, Ethiopia has injera.
Mexican cuisine was recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010.
Under this premise, our duty as a diplomatic mission is to promote the best of Mexico.
The fifth edition of the Mexican Gastronomic Week was an excellent forum to promote our cuisine in Ethiopia. We invited Mexican chef Omar Cuellar, who cooked several delicious Mexican dishes. Over 1,000 persons enjoyed the Mexican cuisine, including diplomats, UN and AU officers, members of the international community and Ethiopian families.
Are you surprised that there is currently no restaurant in Addis Ababa that specializes in the world famous Mexican cuisine?
It is a challenge more than a surprise for us.
We have to continue to work jointly with investors, food suppliers and chefs in order to have Mexican food in Ethiopia.
We are working in two parts: first by organizing events such as the Mexican Gastronomic Week; and second, we are exploring possible trade channels that allow Mexican products to come to Ethiopia. For example, the new route that Ethiopian Airlines plans to open to Mexico would be an excellent way to do it.
I cannot help but talk about Donald Trump. In his rhetoric, the US president has used your nation as a scapegoat to introduce a slew of policies, more specifically in regards to migration and immigration. How has that affected your work as an Ambassador here and of your colleagues around the world?
First of all, let’s make one thing clear; all serious academic papers do not recognize any link between migration and crime. Mexico as an actor with global responsibility promotes policies that focus on ensuring safe and orderly migration. Mexico is convinced that migration is a shared matter that corresponds to all countries that are working jointly to deal with the matter. Based on this premise, Mexico has always proposed to US authorities to work together constructively.
What can Ethiopia learn from Mexico’s experience in the shaping of its economy?
I think that each country has the right to find the best way to achieve economic success, according to its resources.
Mexico was one of the first countries to implement a conditional cash transfer program in 1997, now it is named “Prospera”. This model has been replicated in several countries around the world.
Ethiopia is already being implementing a social program named “Cash Transfer Program, following the steps of Mexico.
Mexico can share experience in the development of institutions that protect consumers and evaluate social programs, such as its federal attorney’s office of Consumer (PROFECO), national commission to protect and defend financial services users (CONDUSEF) and national council for the evaluation of social development policy (CONEVAL).
In the case of Mexico, our economy has been successful in macroeconomic terms despite adverse global conditions, such as the economic crisis of 2008.
We have some challenges to face as how to ensure that people get real benefits from this economy stability.
In this context, Mexican congress approved an ambitious set of structural reforms in energy telecommunication and education fields.
Now, we are in the phase of implementation of these reforms with the purpose of Mexico achieving inclusive economic growth.