New politics at home, new partnerships abroad

The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg delivers a speech to the Mexican Senate

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
The Rt Hon Nick Clegg

It’s a privilege to come and speak to you today. Her Majesty’s government and the people of the UK share an immense admiration for the Mexican nation.

It is also a privilege to meet you here, in your Senate: a symbol of Mexican democracy.

Mexico’s emergence in the world is most often described in economic terms. The 14th largest economy; predicted, by 2050, to grow to the 7th. The trade star of Latin America, now exporting more than Brazil and Argentina combined.

Yet you know better than anyone that Mexico’s ascendency is about more than GDP. Just as it has been underpinned by a modernising of the Mexican economy, equally it rests on a modernising of your political system too.

Prosperity in the modern world depends on free trade, on flexible labour markets, on skills and infrastructure. But it also depends on political stability, on legitimate institutions, and on public support.

The message from citizens the world over is this: they want political systems that move with the times.

Grievances vary from nation to nation. But the impulses are the same. Democracy and freedom are the watchwords of our age. The forces of openness and pluralism continue to gather pace.

That creates consequences for all governments. Not just despots and dictators. That is what I will talk about today.

We must each adapt our political systems to better fit our societies.

And just as we must pursue new politics at home, we must also advance it abroad: reforming international governance structures and establishing new alliances between open and democratic societies.

The drive for new politics

It is worth reflecting briefly on the forces that underpin the clamour for new politics.

The increasing flow of investment, people and goods across borders. Global communications and the unprecedented spread of ideas. The fading of traditional Cold War ideologies - no longer the glue that binds the world together. And, at the same time, our common humanity has been brought into focus by truly transnational problems - climate change, pandemics, financial crises, organised crime.

Together these trends undermine insular and authoritarian tendencies. They create a sense of connectedness between peoples.

New politics in the UK

Including the UK. We have a long and proud democratic tradition. We are an affluent nation. Tolerant and peaceful.

But our political institutions aren’t perfect. There is a gap between the autonomy people have come to expect, and the control they can actually exert. That’s why my Government is implementing a comprehensive programme of reform - for which I have special responsibility - which seeks to disperse powers in ways that speak to modern British society.

We are transferring key decision-making powers, on healthcare, education, planning for example, away from our central executive to local government and local communities.

We are holding a referendum to give people a say over their electoral system. The Coalition is split on the best voting system for the UK. But we agree that it is up to the people to decide.

We are modernising our second chamber which, unlike so many others, still does not contain elected representatives.

Because People want their politics to make sense in their world. That’s why, I believe our citizens have - on the whole - taken to coalition with remarkable ease. They have to work with people they don’t necessarily always agree with. Why shouldn’t we.

And don’t forget, coalition has been extremely rare in the UK. Ours is the first since the Second World War. During the election it was frequently said that a hung parliament - where no party wins an overall majority - would be weak; power-sharing unstable; compromise paralysing. That has not, thankfully, been the case.

New politics abroad: The UK and Mexico

So that is the new UK government. But responding to the new politics does not stop at domestic reform. We need new alliances between all societies who are seeking to modernise; to democratise; to work with others.

Partnerships between open societies. Like Mexico and the UK. Both plural, democratic, internationalist in spirit. Committed to human rights and freedom of expression. Fellow proponents of the new politics.

My trip marks, I hope, a period of intense and lasting re-engagement between our nations.

The message I bring from the UK is this: we do not take Mexico for granted. We seek stronger bonds between our nations: are a route to shared prosperity; and to advancing our common goals.

Shared prosperity

First, shared prosperity.

Trade is vital here. Currently, the UK makes up less than 1% of Mexico’s imports, having been overtaken by our competitors - Germany, Spain, the Netherlands too.

It’s entirely perverse. [Insert: yet] the UK trades extensively in almost every corner of the globe. Mexico’s trade is now more than Brazil and Argentina combined. The World Bank has declared Mexico the easiest Latin American nation within which to do business. In Europe, the OECD has said the same about the UK.

At a time of continued uncertainty in the global economy no one, not even the fast growing nations, can afford to waste the opportunities this presents.

So President Calderon and I have agreed to work towards doubling bilateral trade by 2015. I have brought a business delegation with me today to foster greater understanding in each others markets.

There are also many ways in which we can learn from each other as we seek to create an environment for enduring, long-term growth.

For example, I, like many others, have been extremely impressed by the resilience of Mexico’s banking sector following the global financial crisis. Mexican banks were better capitalised than their counterparts abroad - including in the UK

Equally, we can offer you our own unique expertise. In Education. Infrastructure. Science and research. In the shift to the low carbon economy. In innovation, creativity and design. Precisely the areas Mexico is looking to develop as you now seek to diversify your economy.

We can, and we are, helping in the fight against drugs and organised crime. President Calderon and both Houses of Congress deserve enormous credit for efforts to tackle Mexico’s drug cartels, and I know that over the last eighteen months this hard work has begun to show real results.

But I also know that this is not an easy fight. And the UK government is determined to assist you in any way we can. Not least through working with Mexican law enforcement to share our experiences and the techniques we have learnt to combat organised crime.

Common goals

Of course, our partnership isn’t just about our prosperity, or what we can do for each other. It’s also about the wider world.

Democracy. Development. Free trade. Tackling poverty. Protecting biodiversity. Halting dangerous climate change. Countering the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

These are the goals we share. And we understand that, on each, the nations of the world are stronger together and weaker apart. That our best chance of success is through international action.

That is the new politics abroad. Collective, inclusive, international decision-making, governed by the rule of law.

So we welcome Mexico’s commitment to multilateralism. We were heartened by the success of the Cancun Climate talks - proof that effective action can be agreed internationally - when stewarded with such skill.

We have high hopes for the G20 under Mexican chairmanship next year. Your Presidency will be critical to delivering the right framework for growth, for sound financial regulation, and for delivering on our promises to help the worlds poorest.

And on Doha, the UK government stands should to shoulder with you in our joint desire to complete the round and open up the nations of the world to each others’ goods and services.

But the UK’s support for the multilateral system as it stands is not uncritical. Our international institutions still do not reflect the modern power map. Many of today’s key players are not properly represented and as a result the institutions are increasingly out of date.

And we are unequivocal in our view that collective international action must always adhere to the rule of law. The current intervention in Libya is a case in point. I opposed the Iraq war. I opposed it on the grounds that the legal case had not been proven, and the invasion did not have full collective support. The action in Libya, on the other hand, is different. It is right that we protect Libyan citizens from the crushing brutality of the Qadafi regime. And it is legitimate because it has unambiguous international support, and is grounded in international law.


So, to sum up: I hope my visit demonstrates the UK’s seriousness about our partnership with Mexico. A country that understands the importance of openness and pluralism. Of the new politics, at home and abroad.

It’s a new, reinvigorated partnership, but one that is built on old ties. One that will be good for Mexico, good for the UK and, I believe, as we advance our common goals, good for the wider world.

Thank you.

Updates to this page

Published 29 March 2011