Farewell remarks by Deputy Minister Sue van der Merwe on the occasion of the farewell cocktail in honour of Ambassador Mauricio de Marioy Campos of Mexico, 14 May 2007, 17h30

Your Excellency, Ambassador Mauricio de Maria y Campos
Ambassadors and High Commissioners
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a great pleasure to welcome you to this function to bid farewell to a dear friend of South Africa, who has represented Mexico for the last five years in our country with great distinction. He was also the Dean of the Group of Latin America and Caribbean (or GRULAC) Missions in South Africa.

Before coming to South Africa, Ambassador de Maria y Campos enjoyed an illustrious career in the field of foreign affairs and we were greatly honoured by his presence in our country. He was advisor to the previous Deputy Foreign Minister of Mexico responsible for Africa, Ambassador Morena. He also served as Deputy Minister under the previous PRI Administration, from 1982-1997 and was Director General of the United Nations Organisation for Industrial Development, based in Vienna, from 1993-1997.

As you can appreciate, he brought with him a vast amount of experience coming into his post as Ambassador to South Africa and this showed during his tour of duty. As the third Mexican Ambassador to South Africa, he not only skilfully nurtured the existing ties between Mexico and South Africa, but he also actively and with Mexican passion continued to forge a better understanding and knowledge of his country in South Africa by exposing South Africans to the colourful and extremely rich culture that is Mexico.

I know that Ambassador y Campos loved South Africa. He travelled extensively to every single corner of the country and he never got tired or exhausted of travelling. He was a well-known personality and an extremely active person, so much so that he was continuously invited to participate in conferences, workshops, discussions, and off course, he accepted all such invitations and he loved to participate actively in these events.

South Africa and Mexico enjoy cordial bilateral relations. In this regard, Ambassador De Campos has been working tirelessly to raise relations between South Africa and Mexico in both the economical and political field, as well as in the multilateral arena, to a higher level.

As a matter of fact, Ambassador Mauricio de Maria y Campos, officially informed Minister Dlamini-Zuma during the last few days, that the Government of Mexico has decided to strengthen the existing relations with South Africa through the creation of a Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on Multilateral Issues.

Mexico and South Africa work closely together in multilateral fora and share and feel the same on so many issues such as South-South cooperation, environment, human rights and nuclear disarmament. The establishment of a Consultation Mechanism on Multilateral Issues would allow both countries to reinforce our bilateral cooperation and would assist us to coordinate actions in the multilateral field.

Our cordial political relations are also underpinned by growing trade relations. Trade between the two countries has been growing steadily since 1993, when Mexico lifted its ban on trade with South Africa and the two nations for the first time began to have direct commerce taking place. A pleasing development is the increasing diversification of goods and the fact that trade between the countries rather complement each other than being in competition. Mexican exports to South Africa are dominated by heavy machinery and mechanical equipment, electrical equipment, optical measuring instruments and vehicle and truck parts. Official trade figures are however not accurate and do not reflect the exact extent of trade between our two countries, as an enormous amount of trade are triangulated through America and Europe, leading to inaccurate trade figures.

Thanks to this continued growth, Mexico is now South Africa's second largest trade partner in Latin America, after Brazil, while South Africa has become Mexico's largest trading partner in Africa. I know that it was frustrating for the Ambassador that during his time he could not bring more Mexican trade delegations to South Africa. The delegations that did visit South Africa during 2006, were invited and paid for by the South African government.

Beyond political and trade relations, our two countries have also recognised the importance of promoting people-to-people contact as a means of further strengthening our relations. Towards this end, a Cultural Cooperation Agreement was signed by Minister Pallo Jordan in 2005 in Mexico, following the participation of more than 200 South African artists at the Cervantino festival. During his term in South Africa, the Ambassador ensured that no less than 50 events were organized in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Grahamstown and Cape Town with Mexican performers. Numerous Mexican film festivals and cultural events were arranged to expose South Africans to the Mexican culture. The Cultural Cooperation Agreement has been renewed for another three years, as so much more can be done to promote culture between our two countries.

A certified replica of an OLMEC Head, commissioned by the Government of Veracruz State and presented to South Africa as a symbol of the growing friendship between Mexico and South Africa, is now permanently at the Pretoria Art Museum for all visitors to appreciate.

Your Excellency,

We look forward to working with your successor on outstanding matters such as the Mexican proposal for an institutionalized Bilateral Mechanism (Bi-national Commission). Our two countries have already signed the Bilateral Cooperation Agreement on Issues of Mutual Interest, which will provide a basis to get a Bi-national Commission off the ground. We see such a mechanism as a necessity to solidify existing relations and build on new possibilities as a definite and worthwhile goal to strife for. The groundwork has been laid for a possible visit in the not-too-distance future to Mexico by our Deputy President, accompanied by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Social Development, DTI, Minerals and Energy Affairs and accompanied by a small but strong business delegation.

Ambassador De Maria y Campos, please accept our sincere gratitude and appreciation for you kindness, professionalism and friendship over these past few years and for the contribution that you have made to further strengthening the web of ties that bind our two countries. You leave a proud legacy and a solid foundation for us to build on.

I hope that you and Mrs De Campos will always remember your time in South Africa with a great deal of fondness, and that we will be able to welcome you back to our country before long.

Please raise your glasses and join me in wishing His Excellency all the best for a new chapter of his life on his return to Mexico.

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