Carlos Salinas de Gortari was president of Mexico from 1988 to 1994 and obtained his PhD from the Kennedy School of Government in 1978. He negotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the United States and Canada. He visited Harvard on November 4 at an event organized by the Harvard University Mexican Students Association (HUMAS) and the Mexican Caucus of the Kennedy School.
Harvard Political Review: You mention this change in the structure of the US economy and how it’s moving towards an economy based on services. Something I was confused about was that one cannot open or modify the NAFTA itself? Could you explain that a bit more?
Carlos Salinas de Gortari: It’s not that it cannot be done but rather the question is if it’s convenient or not to do so. What I suggest is that it is not in the best interest of those, who are talking about a revision of the NAFTA, because then every single one of their interests are going to push them to obtain more benefits and the same goes for the other party. Then it just becomes a matter of negotiating an entirely new agreement. What I suggest is finding complementary agreements that take into account the new products that, in the last 20 years, have come about due to the NAFTA. Other complementary agreements will also be necessary in order to avoid the devaluations that give temporary advantages or may be counterproductive.
HPR: Regardless of whoever wins the presidential elections in the US, what factor of the US-Mexico relationship should be emphasized other than immigration or commerce?
CSG: It’s a very complex relationship, especially when you mention commerce or immigration. But the range of factors is so vast, especially with two countries where in a single day there are a million border crossings, half a million automobiles and 100 million worth of exports on a daily basis, we have an enormous international relationship. We have to take this relationship into account in its entirety and not solely on their individual parts.
HPR: You have knowledge about the reality of Mexican institutions, what do these need in order to be held more accountable and perform their job to society?
CSG: I think that, in general, these institutions have to take into account and register the transformation processes and change that society goes through. And this is not only in Mexico but in the US and even in Canada. This is a general theme that we all have to touch upon.
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