Languages in Politics and Diplomacy: Juan Carlos Baker Pineda, Director General for North America, Ministry of Economy, Mexico

Have you ever wondered how languages serve politics? This week we are honored to present the interview of one of the most distinguished young Mexican politicians, Mr. Juan Carlos Baker Pineda, the Director General for North America of the Mexican Ministry of Economy. Mr. Baker Pineda gives us an insight on the way languages are needed in politics and diplomacy. Find bellow the full interview.

Please give a description of your line of work.

My main duties include overseeing implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in Mexico. I coordinate the activities of the Committees and Working Groups established in the treaty and make periodic reports to the Free Trade Commission, which is comprised of the cabinet officials in charge of trade for Mexico, Canada and the United States. My role demands technical knowledge of Mexico’s industries and well-honed skills in the public policy, political management and diplomatic arenas. 

I am active participant in negotiations with the US and Canada on numerous issues: from agribusiness and industrial goods to legal aspects of the NAFTA, including dispute settlement procedures. I serve as the liaison for the Ministry of the Economy to the North American Leaders Summit and have participated in these trilateral meetings since their inception. On the trade negotiations front, I have been involved in the processes that Mexico has conducted with countries such as Argentina, Peru, Korea and Japan, and was appointed in 2012 as Mexico’s Deputy Chief Negotiator for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

 What is your personal perception of the value of languages in general?

Being able to speak another language is very important. Not only would that skill give any given person more chances to develop professionally, but it would also give he or she a way to learn other cultures and ways of life. My personal view is that we should encourage kids, as early as primary school, to start learning a second and third language.

 What is the value of languages in your field of expertise?

In my line of work is absolutely fundamental that my staff and colleagues speak at least one foreign language. As we go from place to place representing Mexico and as we meet with foreign visitors on a regular basis, it is important that we are able to communicate as clearly and as vivid in a foreign language as we do it in Spanish. Naturally, a good command of English is mandatory, but I also have people working with me that are fluid in French, German and increasingly, Mandarin.

 From your professional experience, what thoughts come to mind when someone tells you she/he works as a translator?

I always feel a great deal of admiration. I think that translating is a very demanding job, not only because he or she needs to be fluent in the language, but also must be familiar with other details – the culture, day-to-day life and current affairs of the country whose language the translator works with. I only wish I could speak so many languages!

 Where you ever in need of translation services? If yes, please provide more details about the nature of the project(s).

Yes, many times, either because my counterparts are not fluid in any of the languages I speak, or because protocol requires me to speak in my native langue and use a translator for official purposes. In some occasions I have also hired translators to work on documents, speeches and other materials that I use for my trips abroad.


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