Interview with Ambassador Wilfred Mohr
At the end of August, Mexico welcomed the new Ambassador of the Kingdom of The Netherlands in Mexico and Belize. In this exclusive interview with Ambassador Wilfred Mohr, he shares his first impressions of Mexico and elaborates on his plans for the future, particularly in terms of economic collaborations between our nations.
You have just arrived to Mexico. What are your impressions so far? Any surprises?
My wife and I arrived three weeks ago. So far, what surprises me is the level of hygiene measures people in Mexico are taking against COVID-19. In The Netherlands, the use of mouth masks and antibacterial gels is largely optional, but measures in Mexico are stricter. Another aspect that surprises me is the lack of traffic jams! Mexico City is famous for clogged streets, but that is absolutely not the case. You can get around very quickly.
What stands out are the Mexican people. So far we have had very friendly encounters. People are very open, very helpful. For obvious reasons, we haven’t been able to see too much of the city. We´ve been to the areas around Polanco, Chapultepec and Condesa. What surprises me is that the city is quite green, a lot of parks and trees. I imagine that other parts of the city may be less green and quite different. Another great surprise is the excellent food. Mexico is famous for its cuisine and I must say it is true. We have had excellent dinners in restaurants and at home.
Could you tell us more about your background? What career experiences best prepared you for your role as Ambassador of The Netherlands to Mexico?
I´m a Business Economic from the University of Groningen. I joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs immediately after graduation in 1986. My career has always centered around two things. In the first place, economic diplomacy. We have lived in Norway, Indonesia and Hong Kong, and all three postings were economic postings. In the Ministry I have also held positions related to economics and trade policy. For instance, I worked for two years at the Export Promotion Board). In the second place, Asia. Apart from my postings, I traveled a lot in Asia. It is the continent that I know best besides Europe. I deliberately chose to step out of my comfort zone and come to the Western hemisphere where not only the surroundings, but also the language is different. I really wanted to discover a different part of the world.
You have started your term in a time of crisis. What are your expectations for the coming years, in terms of opportunities for Dutch companies in Mexico?
Mexico is a large country, with 130 million inhabitants and a middle-sized income. I think it´s the 14th largest economy of the world, member of G20 and the OECD. In short, a country that cannot be bypassed. Dutch companies should carefully look at Mexico because it is an interesting market with gross potential. Up to now, the business environment for Dutch companies has been very good. Many Dutch companies have already found their way to the Mexican market, but there is room for others. If we can help those companies enter the market, we will certainly do so. As an Embassy, we have chosen a number of sectors that we particularly focus on, such as horticulture, water, energy, automotive, health, maritime and smart and resilient cities. I can imagine there are also opportunities in other sectors, but with limited staff and budget we have to focus. .
What do you hope to achieve in your term as Ambassador of the Kingdom of The Netherlands in Mexico?
My prime goal is the visit of the Dutch Prime Minister. Due to COVID-19 his scheduled visit in April this year had to be postponed. I hope we will have an opportunity in the coming four years to make a visit possible. After all, a political visit at the highest level is always very good to strengthen the relationship between our two countries, to iron out certain difficulties, and to serve as a foundation on which companies can flourish and build their business.
Secondly, I aim to contribute to increase Dutch trade interactions with Mexico, in terms of trade and investments and the overall further development of our trade relationship.
Thirdly, the second highest priority of our Embassy is Human Rights. We support Mexican organizations that aim to improve human rights in the country. We have budgets and possibilities to contribute towards the defense of vulnerable groups, such as journalists and women. Dialogue is also an important factor in the equation, and one that we aim to fully deploy and facilitate to improve the circumstances in Mexico.
How would you describe the role of the Embassy in business development and support for Dutch companies in the Mexican market? How can results be measured?
The role of an Embassy in the economic domain can be seen as that of a marriage counselor. On the Dutch side, we understand what is being offered. On the Mexican side, we depend on our network to map out local demand. It is our role to match supply in The Netherlands to the demand in Mexico. When they “fall in love” we retract and both parties can do business.
Another role of the Embassy is to help Dutch companies that run into trouble while doing business in Mexico. Generally speaking, we have easier access to the public sector and can thus help solve issues quicker.
Our third role is that of a travel agency. We organize trade missions, visits of ministers and other dignitaries. We are here to organize adequate programs, content, logistics, etcetera.
It is quite difficult to pinpoint concrete results of our efforts as a “marriage counselor”. We can place the right people at the table, but it is not up to us whether contracts are signed. Nonetheless, an increase of the trade volumes of import and export between our two countries in the next four years would indicate a positive result, I would say.
In what ways are you planning to build upon the excellent relations between the Dutch and Mexican government?
Former Ambassador Margriet Leemhuis left big shoes to fill! She had a very strong network in both the private and public sector. I hope to be able to step into these shoes and continue on the basis that she has built. I hope to continue help the Dutch business sector in the same direction.
The economic department of the Embassy, NBSO, and Holland House Mexico, are committed to helping Dutch companies be successful in the Mexican market. How do you think we can best carry out this mission together?
I strongly believe in the power of the triple helix: collaboration between the public and private sector, and knowledge institutions. In Mexico, we luckily already have this triple helix in place, I am very much willing to cooperate with you as well as the NBSO and NESO. We are all pulling on the same side of the rope. That is how we will get things done for the private sector.
I am very much in favor of dialogue; it is important to share information between the different parties. Each of our institutions have a different mandate, but through openness and dialogue we can deliver excellent work.