URBANA, Ill. - To promote collaboration and create opportunities for expanded trade between Mexico and Illinois, the University of Illinois has established an official partnership with the Universidad Autonomous del Estado de Mexico (UAEM) and the Mexican-based Foundation for Regional Development and Competitiveness (FUNDECO).
"Illinois agriculture is an export-dependent industry, and Mexico is one of our best customers," Agriculture Director Bob Flider said. "The memoranda signed today will build upon that friendship. It will start new dialogue on everything from animal genetics and crop science to biofuels and agro-business development, identify areas of potential collaboration and, hopefully, create opportunities for expanded trade," Flider added.
The partnership became official this afternoon at the Governor's Mansion in Springfield with a signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) document by Dean Robert Hauser of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES), representing the U of I, and Dr. Jorge Olvera Garcia, the rector of UAEM.
Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois and Gov. EruvielAvilaof the State of Mexico also signed the document as honorary witnesses.
The cooperation has the potential to boost the state of Illinois's already strong ties with Mexico. Every year, more than 40 percent of Illinois's farm commodities are sold overseas, and Mexico is one of Illinois's most loyal trading partners. The past five years alone, Mexico has purchased $3.3 billion in agricultural products from Illinois, making it the state's third-largest agricultural export market.
The academic component to this agreement, aligning the U of I and UAEM, will allow the Illinois Department of Agriculture, FUNDECO, and other economic organizations to benefit from cooperation between the universities who are best equipped to disseminate knowledge on science and technology.
"This agreement is a continuation of the College's ever increasing involvement with institutions in Mexico," noted Dean Hauser. "We have forged similar agreements with institutions such as the Univesidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM), El Colegio de Postgraduados, and the Autonomous University of San Luis Potosui, the latter, of which has resulted in several projects pertaining to obesity in our respective countries. Additionally, we have fostered dually funded research programs with the Mexican government and Mexican universities, for example, the University of Queretaro. This new relationship with UAEM has tremendous possibilities for both Illinois and Mexico as we collaborate to realize our shared interests in agricultural, nutritional, and economic benefits," Hauser added.
The specific objectives outlined in the MOU include fostering a collaborative relationship through joint educational, cultural, and research activities and faculty and student exchanges, and promoting collaboration between the two states and universities on extension, animal genetics, biofuels, crop sciences, irrigation, and veterinary medicine.
The partnership among the three organizations was initiated by the Illinois Trade and Investment Latin America Office, based in Mexico City, which is part of the Illinois Department of Agriculture and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. This office promotes Illinois exports in the Latin American Spanish-speaking countries, and endorses Illinois as the ideal place to invest among Latin American entrepreneurs.
UAEM is the largest university institution in Mexico's State of Mexico with over 84,500 students (www.uaemex.mx). Its central campus is located in the state capital of Toluca.
FUNDECO is a non-profit civic association of Mexican entrepreneurs and volunteers that works to strengthen Mexican agricultural activities by supporting economic opportunities in rural communities to increase productivity and quality of life (www.fundecoac.org.mx).