Mexico's President Vicente Fox says funds frozen by Switzerland in an alleged money laundering case won’t overshadow an official Swiss visit to the country.
Fox was speaking to swissinfo ahead of a visit by the Swiss president, Joseph Deiss, who he is due to meet on Thursday.
Frozen Swiss bank accounts contain $105 million (SFr124.2 million) of Mexican money, allegedly stemming from drug dealing and laundered in Switzerland by Raul Salinas, brother of former president Carlos Salinas de Gortari.
The funds were first frozen in 1995. Since then Mexico has been fighting to get them back.
But Fox stressed that the relationship between the two countries would not be clouded by legal wrangling over the affair, describing current relations as “excellent”.
swissinfo: What is the actual state of play regarding the Salinas case?
V.F.: The case is being dealt with by the judiciary. I do not know the precise details of the case because I did not interfere in legal matters. But Mexico will continue to use all legal means to have the money returned.
swissinfo: Couldn’t tensions arise if Switzerland were to refuse to hand back the money?
V.F.: Whatever the outcome, ties with Switzerland are too comprehensive and constructive for that.
We will accept the judges’ decision. However, in the case of a negative decision, if there were a possibility of taking the issue to a higher court, we would do so.
swissinfo: What do you expect from the visit of President Joseph Deiss?
V.F.: Relations between Switzerland and Mexico are excellent. They go way beyond purely economic links. We speak the same language when it comes to democracy, culture, education and human rights.
We are pursuing a better economic development independently of those values.
We want to intensify our trade with Switzerland and Europe, and expand mutual investments.
swissinfo: As a member of the European Free Trade Association, Switzerland has been benefiting from a free trade agreement with Mexico since July 1, 2001. Are you happy with what has been achieved so far?
V.F.: In view of the moderate economic growth over the past three years in Europe and on the American continent, I am happy with the result both as far as trade and investment are concerned.
But I expect much more. Mexico has concluded 42 free trade agreements, more than any other country worldwide. Whoever invests in Mexico has a big competitive advantage because there is free access to the markets in the United States, Canada and Latin America.
There are no import and export duties, and production costs can be massively reduced.
swissinfo: What possibilities are there for Swiss companies, particularly in the chemicals and pharmaceuticals branch, if they invest in Mexico?
V.F.: This branch is investing heavily in Mexico. It is very welcome because it not only creates jobs but also brings new technologies to Mexico.
We announced recently that we would open up the Mexican petrochemical branch to foreign investors. It’s a very attractive and productive sector of our economy that has lacked investment up to now.
In this context, we shall certainly also be looking in the direction of Switzerland, where high quality chemical and pharmaceuticals companies are based.
swissinfo: In contrast to the free trade agreement with the European Union, there is no clause in the (Efta) agreement with Switzerland concerning development cooperation. Why not?
V.F.: You are right that no such clause exists but that does not hinder us from having close ties with civilian organisations in Switzerland. Such a clause is not necessarily needed because we can take up development cooperation issues in another form.
swissinfo-interview: Martin Jordan in Mexico City
President Vicente Fox does not view frozen Mexican money in Swiss banks as a hindrance to bilateral ties.
Fox would like to intensify trade with Switzerland and Europe and expand mutual investments.
He sees a potential for Swiss chemicals and pharmaceuticals companies to invest in Mexico. They would create jobs and bring technology.
In compliance with the JTI standards