Scott Ball / Rivard Report
North American Development Bank Managing Director Gerónimo Gutiérrez, who was appointed to serve as Mexico's new ambassador to the U.S., called for state and local leaders Friday "to continue to be a voice of reason, friendship, and positive engagement" in the U.S.-Mexico bilateral relationship.
"I am certain that the relationship between San Antonio and Mexico will continue to serve as an example of the great things that can be accomplished between our two countries,"Gutiérrez told more than 200 political and business leaders at a farewell reception in his honor. The event took place at the IBC Bank tower downtown and was hosted by NADBank and the Mexican Consulate. "Few communities in the United States are linked to Mexico in such a positive way."
Gutiérrez, who served as the head of the bank for six years, is awaiting ratification from the Mexican Senate and hopes to step into his role as ambassador next month. NADBank is jointly financed by the U.S. and Mexico and works to address infrastructure challenges and improve the quality of life on both sides of the border.
Prior to his role with NADBank, Gutiérrez served as a public official in the last four administrations of the Mexican government, holding positions in sectors of commerce, finance, foreign relations, and national security.
Mayor Ivy Taylor told the crowd on Friday that "we are not losing a favorite son but gaining an ambassador." Gutiérrez will continue to visit San Antonio regularly, as his wife Patricia and their three children will remain in the city.
"We hope you will carry the warmth of our city and our heartfelt appreciation with you to your posting in Washington D.C.," Taylor said.
Gutiérrez's role as ambassador will be critical in the coming months, as he will work alongside Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray to advocate for the North American Free Trade Agreement and the importance of a strong U.S.-Mexico bilateral relationship under the Trump administration.
President Donald Trump has promised to renegotiate or scrap NAFTA, calling it "a catastrophe to our country." Mexican government officials are currently engulfed in a series of consultations with the private sector to “guide the revision and strengthening” of the agreement. Peña Nieto has argued that trade negotiations should accompany talks on other issues, including border security and immigration.
"We are truly at a critical juncture in the relationship between Mexico and the United States," Gutiérrez said. "The possibility of a major setback does exist, and yet the possibility of beginning a new era is also at hand."
"Political winds can blow in many many directions," IBC Bank CEO Dennis Nixon said at the event Friday. He pledged to deploy leadership and resources to both countries to defend the value of free trade embodied by NAFTA.
"I'm extremely happy to report that IBC Bank was a huge supporter of NAFTA and worked in the trenches with leaders in Mexico and the United States to make sure that trade agreement became law," Nixon added. "Twenty-three years later we have seen prosperity beyond our imagination because of it."
Mexico is the U.S.'s third largest trading partner, Nixon said, but most importantly, it is Texas' largest trading partner and responsible for one in five jobs in Texas.
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who served as mayor when NAFTA was initialized in San Antonio in 1992, said the trade agreement is "extremely important" for the region.
"We believe that we need to maintain and continue [NAFTA]," Wolff told Gutiérrez during his remarks. "There may be some changes to it, but we're going to work with you in any way possible."
Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos was also in attendance and told the crowd Gutiérrez will be a great asset in Washington D.C. Pablos added that he will be traveling to Mexico City in a couple of weeks as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has asked him to focus heavily on trade relations.
In 2017, the U.S.-Mexico relationship entered into a new phase, said former Consul General of Mexico Héctor Velasco Monroy, one where "our historic ties will be challenged in many ways." Velasco's mission as Consul officially came to end on Jan. 31. The Rivard Report reported Velasco's departure on Feb. 10.
During his brief farewell, Velasco told the crowd that Peña Nieto has appointed him as the CEO of DICONSA, a Mexican rural supply program that provides accessibly priced food for low income populations. Velasco told the Rivard Report Friday that a new Consul General for San Antonio has yet to be announced, but he is confident that both Peña Nieto and Gutiérrez will appoint someone to lead San Antonio, considered by many as the bridge city to Mexico.
"San Antonio represents a very important human wealth exchange between our two countries and I am convinced that our strengths are more powerful than our weaknesses," Velasco said. "Gerónimo has all the experience and knowledge needed to create a positive way and the right direction."
Regarding NAFTA, Velasco said that future agreements between both countries should focus on a "win-win relationship between partners," keeping in mind competitiveness and innovation.
"Those of you who share in these views, I would ask you to join in the effort and to step out of your way now as never before," Gutiérrez told the crowd. "And for those who don't share in these views, I would simply ask that you open yourselves to the possibilities."
Gutiérrez declined further comment on the bilateral relationship between both countries until after the Mexican Senate ratifies his new role, which he hopes will be completed next week.
This story was originally published on Feb. 18, 2017.