At a time when the U.S. presidential election is creating some strong rhetoric about immigration, Mexico’s foreign affairs secretary emphasized the importance of maintaining a positive relationship with the United States during a talk in Raleigh on Thursday.
Claudia Ruiz Massieu visited City Club Raleigh to discuss solutions to ongoing problems facing Mexico and its interactions with the United States.
Asked whether she could conceive of a wall being built between the two countries – as presumed GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump has suggested – Massieu said Mexico and the United States cannot afford to become increasingly divided.
“We’ve learned from experience that we do a lot more good things when we are together,” she said. “We are greater together than we are apart.”
Though Massieu declined to invoke Trump’s name or to talk about the electoral processes of other countries during her National Public Affairs Forum talk, she said the United States must be committed to working with Mexico.
“Bilateral trade between Mexico and North Carolina reached $7.7 billion last year, which is more than the GDP of the entire Raleigh metropolitan area,” she said. “In a nutshell, we are the second most important export market for North Carolina. What does this mean for North Carolinians? It means that more than 200,000 jobs in this state depend on bilateral trade with Mexico.”
In an interview with The News & Observer after the event, Massieu was asked about House Bill 2. She discussed Mexico’s commitment to supporting members of the LGBT community.
“Mexico is a vibrant democracy, and in that sense, we’re very much committed to promoting the fundamental rights of all of our citizens,” she said. “Less than a month ago, the president signed a bill and initiative to ensure that the LGBT community has the same rights in terms of entering into marriage, and it provides for different services within the government to be accessible regardless of sexual identity or orientation.”
Massieu said there is a general lack of understanding about the root causes of immigration. She noted how migration from Mexico to the United States has decreased over the past five years and that more Mexicans are returning home than are traveling to the United States.
Having served as Mexico’s minister of tourism between 2012 and 2015, Massieu said some potential tourists incorrectly view Mexico as a crime-ridden country. Only certain parts of the nation are considered dangerous, she said.
Mexico’s homicide rate is nearly four times higher than in the United States, but Massieu says that it is going down.
“We are a safe and secure country,” Massieu said. “We have challenges in specific areas just like anyone else. We have to start talking about that, as well, and highlight the good things and the good news.”
At the cornerstone of Massieu’s speech and her responses to audience questions was a belief that Mexico is often misunderstood. If people were to gain a deeper appreciation for the country, she said, they would recognize some of its more positive attributes.
“I think our greatest challenge has been and still is to try and get the media to cover Mexico’s stories with objectivity and also talk about the very good things,” she said.