Mexico must explore trade opportunities in Asia: Ex-envoy

Mr Sergio Ley was Mexico's Ambassador to Indonesia (1997-2001) and China (2001-2006).
Mr Sergio Ley was Mexico's Ambassador to Indonesia (1997-2001) and China (2001-2006).

Mr Sergio Ley's father was from southern China. In the very early 1900s, he left home as a young teenager and ended up in Macau, where he would do odd jobs in the daytime and, unknown to its owners, sleep on board a boat in the harbour at night.

One morning, he woke up to find that the boat had sailed and was in the Pacific Ocean. There was no way to get off and the boy ended up in Mexico. He eventually married a Mexican woman and started a supermarket chain. Many years passed before he found and met his family again in China.

He also had a son, Mr Sergio Ley, who went on to become Mexico's Ambassador to Indonesia (1997-2001) and China (2001-2006).

In January 1990, when he was cultural officer at Mexico's consulate in Shanghai, Mr Ley opened Mexico's embassy in Singapore.

In his mind, there is no doubt that Mexico must explore trade and investment opportunities in Asia, and Singapore offers Mexico the best platform.

Surrounded by the rich dark tones of Chinese and Javanese furniture in his house in Mexico City, Mr Ley, now president of the corporate chapter for Asia and Oceania of the Mexican Council for Trade, Investment and Technology, said: "It is remarkable what Singapore has achieved. I think very few societies in the world have done what Singapore has done up to now.

"Thanks to that, Singapore is becoming a feature in the maps of Mexican businessmen."


On other trade issues, he told The Straits Times: "What the outcome of Nafta (North American Free Trade Agreement) talks will be is totally unknown because you cannot know anything coming from the Trump presidency.

"He might have negotiators but those negotiators cannot commit anything because whatever they commit can be destroyed with a tweet."

He added: "This is probably a blessing in disguise because, thanks to that, we will be forced to diversify. It is imperative for Mexico to diversify our foreign trade."

Mr Ley, when reminiscing about his days in Shanghai, Jakarta, Beijing and the region, often tells his guests the story of his father's chance journey across the Pacific Ocean.

Asked whether he would write a book about his family history one day, the 75-year-old laughed and said: "When I retire."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 16, 2018, with the headline 'Mexico must explore trade opportunities in Asia: Ex-envoy'. Print Edition | Subscribe