We met Silvano Conejo, Governor of the Mexican State of Michoacan, and (in his words) the next President of Mexico.
We spoke about his vision for Mexico; economically, politically and socially, and future bilateral ties with China. Shanghai is one of 4 stops on his China trip, he’s already been to Beijing to meet officials, to Suzhou to gain an understanding of Free Trade Zones, and will proceed to Hong Kong to speak to investors.
Silvano seems the perfect politician. He seems so at ease in the middle of the flurry activity that is a press event, endlessly charming, replying with confidence and poise when he likes a question and deflecting and evading questions when he doesn’t.
Michoacan is located in Western Mexico, and has a large stretch of coastline on the Pacific Ocean on its south western border. Though the capital of Michoacan is Morelia, it’s most attractive investment spot is the port city of Lazaro Cardenas, which recently become a Free Trade Zone.
(this interview is edited for length and clarity)
Q. So what brings you to China on this historic trip?
A. “We came to China because we need to turn our attention to Asia and its enormous potential. The uncertainty created by Donald Trump, especially his comments about scrapping the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), obliges us, as a state, as a country, to look elsewhere for economic security.”
Q. What makes your state so attractive for Chinese investors?
A. “The combination of our free trade port city of Lazaro Cardenas, attractive tax rate and economic sectors makes Michoacan perfect for Chinese investors. The biggest fiscal cost for companies in Mexico is corporate tax at 35% – we will reduce corporate tax for Chinese investors by 100% in the first 10 years, and 50% the following 5 years. This means that Chinese investors can take advantage of our economy which is largely across three sectors; agriculture, manufacture and mining.”
Q. Can you tell us more about Lazaro Cardenas?
A. “It’s the number one port in Mexico and its biggest investor is Hutchison Port Holdings. Chinese investors tend to invest in North Mexico to enter the US market, but with the accessibility and tax incentives of Lazaro Cardenas, we can more easily and cheaply provide access to North America, and the world, with 59 shipping lines including to Shanghai, Guangzhou and Ningbo.”
Q. What have you learnt from China so far?
A. “We went to Suzhou to learn how it transformed from a place of nothing to a state of the art city within a couple of decades, through its Free Trade status. We’re not just looking for investment, but also alliances with companies that have been successful in developing free trade zones.”
Q. Is it true you’re running to be the president of Mexico? If so, why, and what policies will you enact?
A. “I am the next president of Mexico! Why? I believe I have the experience to lead this country. I’ve been a senator and a mayor, and now I’m governor of my state. I plan to focus on three key points: education, security and opportunities. I want to transform my country by vertically integrating our society and economy so that each section of the country helps the other.”