Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Mexican consular agency here has multiple goals

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The Government of Mexico is opening a consular agency in Winnipeg to help foster more trade with Manitoba and provide assistance to Mexicans living here and to Manitoba tourists planning to visit there.

Raù Saavedra Cinta, press attaché for the Mexican Embassy in Ottawa, said the new office will perform many of the same services as a consulate general's office -- Mexico has three of those in Canada -- or a career consulate office -- it has two of those.

For example, it will be able to provide tourism information and issue visas to Manitobans planning to visit Mexico, renew passports of Mexicans living here and assist Manitoba companies who are already doing business in Mexico or are looking for opportunities to do business there.

"That is the kind of importance we place on Canada in general and on Manitoba in particular," Saavedra added.

The embassy noted in a written statement Winnipeg is part of one of North America's most important north-south logistics corridors, and trade between Mexico and Manitoba has soared by 1,398 per cent to $842 million a year in the 20 years since the North American Free Trade Agreement came into effect. Mexico is also Manitoba's fourth-largest export market and its third-largest market for imported goods.

"The new office in Winnipeg will facilitate identifying and capitalizing on new business and investment opportunities that would deepen the already vigorous trade... " it added.

The embassy also noted nearly 7,500 Mexicans are now living in Manitoba and more than 50,000 Manitoba tourists visit Mexico each year. It said the new office aims to provide better service in terms of documentation, consular assistance and protection to Mexicans living here, as well as to Mexicans working as seasonal workers here.

Saavedra said the embassy hasn't yet selected a site or an opening date for the new office, nor has it determined how many people will be working there.

"But it's not just going to be one person. It would be a full office there."

Monday's announcement was hailed as good news by local business officials.

Manitoba Chambers of Commerce president and CEO Chuck Davidson said with the ongoing efforts to expand global trade between Canada and other countries, "having someone on the ground here is going to be really beneficial in raising opportunities for doing business with Mexico. (It) is a first step toward opening that door, and it's just a tremendous opportunity."

Davidson said it could also lead to more Mexican tourists visiting Manitoba.

A spokesman for one Winnipeg company already doing business in Mexico -- plastic-packaging manufacturer Winpak Ltd. -- also welcomed Monday's announcement.

Ken Kuchma, Winpak's vice-president and chief financial officer, said Winpak has a small manufacturing plant in Mexico that supplies plastic lids to its customers there. Its Winnipeg plant also ships plastic films there that are used by food-processing firms to package meats and other food products.

He said having a consular agency office here should be handy when the company needs advice on how to deal with issues such as Mexican government regulations and taxation.

"It depends on how they staff it and what the focus is, but I would think it would be helpful," he added.

murray.mcneill@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 18, 2014 B3

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