Sunday 23 October 2016

Here's to the Hibernomexicano relationship and shared prosperity

Conor Fahy

Published 11/09/2016 | 02:30

Conor Fahy Picture: Sean Brosnan
Conor Fahy Picture: Sean Brosnan

The strong relationship between Ireland and Mexico goes back a long way - so much so that the term Hibernomexicano is still used to signify a Mexican of Irish descent.

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Many Irish-born people, or those of Irish lineage, have influenced the development of Mexico militarily, politically and culturally.

The last Viceroy of New Spain (which included Mexico), was one Juan O'Donoju, who negotiated the withdrawal of Spanish troops from the colony and was signatory to the subsequent Act of Independence.

The Governor of Yucatan and Texas (pre-secession) was a certain Hugo Oconor; while the adventurer and revolutionary Don Guillen de Lampart - the inspiration for Zorro - was known back in Wexford as William Lamport.

Irish heritage is still well recognised in Mexico thanks in no small part to the Batallon de San Patricio led by Connemara man John Riley. The battalion's heroic fight for Mexican independence has been celebrated by presidents as recent as Ernesto Zedillo and Vicente Fox.

Irish ancestry is also evident in business. The late media magnate Romulo Antonio O'Farrill, traced his ancestors to Co Longford, and his family still own the Novedades newspaper today.

Analysts see Mexico as one of the strongest of the emerging markets. It is predicted to become the tenth largest economy in the world and one of the top 10 global recipients of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the next decade.

Already, FDI is the most powerful driving force in Mexico's economy and along with its relationship and proximity to the US has created enormous opportunities for Irish investment and sub-supply.

In recent years, Mexico has embarked on an ambitious reform programme, opening up the energy, financial services, broadcasting, telecommunications and education sectors to foreign investment and increased competition.

Agribusiness, aerospace, pharmaceuticals, creative industries, IT for travel, oil and gas, mining, metalworking, engineering, automotive, and food and beverage also offer significant export potential for Irish business.

Activity among Irish companies has been rising over the past two years. Smurfit Kappa, Irelandia, the Kerry Group, Glanbia, Kentech and Kingspan already have significant investments.

Mexico is an open, stable economy, with a population touching 120 million people, including an expanding middle- and high-income cohort, creating a market comparable to an industrialised country of nearly 55 million people. And like many emerging economies, there is great enthusiasm for products and technology of European standard.

It has signed a Free Trade Agreement with the EU, reducing or eliminating many trade barriers. Mexico is also part of the wealthiest trade bloc in the world, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

It offers modern, world-class infrastructure with 30 technology parks, 30 clusters of over 1,000 companies and a robust banking system. It is ranked ninth among the most attractive national destinations in which to invest.

Doing business here requires a subtle understanding of the formalities and informalities of Mexican culture. Hierarchy and status are important so acknowledge the senior person throughout any presentations. Smart dress is a must and an executive car for attending business meetings is expected even if you are only visiting.

Mexicans are a good-humoured people and business discussions will not be exclusively serious. Some light-hearted chat over long lunches is often a precursor to a short discussion about business over coffee and dessert.

An invite to the family home is a sure sign things are going well. Be ready to talk about Ireland in these situations. Mexicans identify with us in ways that go beyond our linked heritage. They can relate to having a far more powerful neighbour that is their most important trading partner.

They share Ireland's family-centred tradition with a strong cultural influence of Catholicism. And, like the Irish, they love a party with plenty of music and a bit of what you fancy. Perhaps that's what inspired the world's oldest tequila brand, Jose Cuervo, to buy the world oldest whiskey brand, Bushmills? Another Hibernomexicano link we can all raise a glass to.

Conor Fahy is Enterprise Ireland Reginal Director for Latin America

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