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Charlie Rose Talks to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto

“The U.S. sells to our country almost the same as it sells to all the European Union, five times what it sells Brazil”

Characterize the relationship today between the United States and Mexico.

Our economies are well integrated. Each dollar Mexico exports to the U.S. has a content of American production of 40¢. About 80 percent of our exports go to the United States. Mexico is the second most important destination of U.S. exports. What does this mean? The U.S. sells to our country almost the same as it sells to all the European Union, five times what it sells Brazil. More than what it sells together to Brazil, Russia, China, and India.

Mexico is upset about the number of guns coming from the U.S.

This has meant that criminal groups obviously are arming themselves with weapons that are coming illegally into Mexico. And that’s why we have established a cooperation agreement to avoid this illegal trafficking of weapons. In this serious, respectful relationship, the U.S. will have to define its domestic policy [about the proliferation of guns]. We’ve asked to avoid having illegal trafficking of weapons along our border. We can fight this together.

How are you eliminating or reducing drug cartel violence?

The number of homicides recorded this year is almost 25 percent less than in the same period in the year 2012. And among those homicides that are associated with organized crime, it’s an even higher figure. I can tell you, we’ve detained, apprehended various of the main heads of drug cartels. They’re now in jail. And they’re going through the legal process.

You were elected in 2012 with the bold promise of growth and reform. Then the economy slowed. What happened?

I think that we would have to review everything that’s happened in one year and a half. That’s how long we’ve been in this administration. The next day, after I took office, we signed, among the main political forces of the country and the federal government, an agreement we called the Pact for Mexico. This has allowed us to launch various structural reforms on issues that had been postponed for many decades in our country. The implementation of the reforms takes time. The benefits of the reforms also take time. Nonetheless, what is a reality now in Mexico is that there have been deep-reaching reforms in energy, in telecommunications, economic competition, fiscal, financial, education, political.

Tell me how your energy reform will work.

The reforms will make it possible for foreign investment to be in the sector. Those that are extracting resources will have to pay. The state will continue being the owner of the wealth of our oil but … the reform foresees competition in the sector. Pemex [government-owned Petróleos Mexicanos], that great company, will continue to belong to the Mexican state. Now we’ll have to face competition, and this undoubtedly will make the Pemex processes more efficient. They do have to be more efficient with lower costs and with more cost benefits for the population. [This] will allow us to increase our energy security, especially in gas production. We were self-sufficient in natural gas; now we have to import gas.

As you try to create more competition in telecommunications, you’re taking on your wealthiest citizen, Carlos Slim. How will this battle unfold?

It’s fundamental to have an even floor that will allow us to break away from asymmetries in the sector and for us to finally have even competition for the benefit of users, for the benefit of Mexican families, for the benefit of users who watch television, who use the telephone, for the benefit of small, medium-sized enterprises who are the ones that, with their resources, could not count on appropriate efficient services … to increase their productivity. It’s not really only [about] opening competition but making sure this competition will have an impact on the growth of the economy.

Why do you think your popularity has declined?

I think that, to a great extent, this is due to the fact that this impetus, this transformation the country has decided to implement, faces resistance from different groups that are being affected. I’m not driving to be a popular president. I’m driving to transform Mexico.

Watch Charlie Rose on Bloomberg TV weeknights at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. ET.
Emmy Award-winning journalist Charlie Rose is the host of Charlie Rose, the nightly PBS program.

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