City Club of Cleveland Luncheon by Greater Cleveland International Lawyers Group
On Tuesday, October 18th, we went to a luncheon put on at the City Club of Cleveland by the Greater Cleveland International Lawyers Group (GCLIG) where the speaker was Mr. Cesar Ochoa, a very prominent attorney from Mexico who works with EC Legal which has offices in Mexico City, Ciudad Juarez, Queretaro, and Leon. We looked up his biography and learned that he often represents multinational companies "in complex trans-border transactions and negotiations including acquisitions, maquiladoras, joint ventures, leases, construction contracts, trusts and real estate financing. Mr. Ochoa has substantive experience counseling domestic and foreign companies doing business in Mexico, helping them with a variety of issues, including foreign investments, international trade, corporate law, real estate acquistions, government procurement, tax law, environmental law ande labor law matters."
Mr. Ochoa is a good friend of our friend, Mr. Stephen J. Petras from BakerHostetler who has brought him to GCLIG to speak several times over the years on several topics. We shared a table at this luncheon with Mr. H. Alan Rothenbuecher, a partner with Benesch Friedlander Coplan and Arnoff, who practices immigration law. In fact, his parents immigrated to the United States from Germany. Mr. Rothenbuecher knows Ms. Wong and thinks highly of her as an attorney and a person.
Mr. Ochoa began his presentation with a short film about Mexico's riches in terms of heritage and what is taking place now in terms of energy, environmental, and technological developments. With all of these positives, the question is "why isn't Mexico more of a player on the world scene?" Mr. Ochoa answered this question with one word which was "corruption" and devoted half of his presentation to giving examples of how it had penetrated all levels of government throughout his country.
He devoted the second half of his presentation to talking about the anti-corruption reform package that came into effect in July, 2016 and his high hopes that this will cause a lot of barriers to be lifted.
We looked up an article that Ms. Viridiana Rios wrote for "Forbes" magazine titled "Mexico Wins; Anti-Corruption Reform Approved" that was published on July 18th, 2016. It is available online and we suggest that anyone interested in Mexico take a look at it because it perfectly mirrors what Mr. Ochoa was saying.
Among the issues that the article addresses are how citizen groups pushed for the creation of a "National Anti-Corruption System" which would require constitutional reform. In order to get the various state governments to approve such reform, an "anti-corrupt-o-meter" was created which was a digital clock that kept track of the days that each state government took to approve reform. In this case, social networks were a big help in terms of applying pressure. After the NAS finally came to be, legal experts and the citizenry (with the support of the business community) made use of the "citizen initiative" process to make sure that the federal government enacted effective laws that would make all governmental transactions more transparent.
In the end, as the first paragraph of Ms. Rios' article reads, "Mexico just approved an anti-corruption reform that required changing 14 constitutional articles, drafting 2 new general laws, and reforming five more. This is not minor. The reform is, by far, the most encompassing system to identify and sanction corruption that the country has ever had and its effects will be felt quite soon."
We asked Mr. Ochoa how we felt that this would affect immigration. Mr. Ochoa answered by saying that immigration is not one of his specialties as an attorney but that he knew of "the horrors of immigration." He told us a story about how years ago he met in France with a friend of his and noticed that all of the maids in the house were from Spain. Soon afterwards, Spain joined the European Union and, from what Mr. Ochoa told us, it is difficult to find Spanish maids in Paris now. Accordingly, he was hoping that this would ultimately be what would happen concerning people who have left Mexico to find work in the United States.
Ultimately, for this to happen, said Mr. Ochoa, the standard of living in Mexico would have to be raised and ending corruption would be a big step forward in order to do that along with the ability to ensure safety and improve education. He acknowledged that at this time people were not leaving Mexico for the United States in as great numbers as they used to.
The last question was asked by Mr. Bruce J.L. Lowe, President of GCLIG, and it concerned U.S./Mexico relations. Mr. Ochoa said that Mexico has a history of being respectful of other countries policies and he believed that Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto made a bad mistake (and polling reflects this) by inviting Mr. Donald Trump, a U.S. Presidential candidate not the U.S. President, to Mexico and giving him the welcome that he did. Mr. Ochoa mentioned that he was a supporter of NAFTA and believed that its overall effect has been good for both the U.S. and for Mexico. Needless to say, he did not want to build a wall between the countries.
Along these lines, prior to the start of the program Mr. Lowe said that in January, 2017 GCLIG plans to host its annual immigration roundtable and we should know if there will be such a wall by then. If not, he said with a twinkle, perhaps we should organize a Pink Floyd concert to celebrate "the absence of one."
Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC