Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu landed in Mexico City just before midnight on Wednesday night, but lost no time bringing together Israeli and Mexican business leaders bright and early on Thursday morning.
Mexico was the final stop on his three-segment visit to Latin America. His next stop is New York, where he will meet with U.S. President Donald Trump, and Jewish leaders, before addressing the United Nations General Assembly next Tuesday (Sept. 19) prior to flying home in time to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, in Israel.
Here’s a transcript of his remarks at a meeting of the two delegations:
“Thank you, Mr. Minister for your tremendous words of friendship.
You also say – divine providence. You know that in Israel the businessmen make a local call to G-d, but it’s possible to have with the global networks of communications, even that can be spread, and it is spreading. There are great fruits of progress that are being spread across the globe with the openness of markets, with the rise of technology.
This is the subject that I’d like to speak about in this historic visit to Mexico. Historic, because, amazingly, no Israeli prime minister has visited Mexico, or for that matter any other Latin American country since the founding of the State of Israel. It’s time to correct that. I’m proud to be the first Israeli Prime Minister to correct it.
It was never appropriate, but it’s particularly inappropriate now, when it’s very clear that Latin America itself has a great future, and Mexico is one of the great economies of the world. It’s in the opening dozen and by clear, and I think responsible, estimates, it will move not merely to the top ten but further down, that means up, and we in Israel want to do business with Mexico. Our firms are here, we have about 150 firms already in Mexico, there’s a delegation that came with me, Mr. Minister, with the help of our distinguished ambassadors.
I want to thank you, Ambassador Peled, and you, Ambassador Macedo for this. It is something whose time has come.
Now, I want to say something about what is coming, what is already here, what we have to do. I believe that there’s a fundamental change in the economic affairs of nations and people. And that is not merely globalization but the enormous value of innovation. Innovation changes, creates new industries and changes old industries with great rapidity. Some will be immune to innovation for a while but not for long. And the future belongs to those who innovate. So you can take an old industry and make it new.
I was once, many, many years ago, a young officer, and I was given a car. It was an Israeli made car. It was made of fiberglass. You’re not laughing. I leaned on the car, once, and my elbow went right through the fiberglass. The fibers scratched my elbow. So you understand that our car industry didn’t last long. It collapsed. We could never compete with the production of engine or chassis or parts or wheels, we didn’t have the scale and we couldn’t drive down the unit costs.
We now have an expanding car industry. What is that industry?
We have 500 startup companies in automotive technologies. They are receiving, until recently, 3.5 billion dollars a year of investment. We had nothing to do with it – the government didn’t invest a penny in this, it just happened by itself. These people are producing things like Waze. Do they use Waze in Mexico? No? Well, it’s an Israeli company that was sold for nothing – a billion dollars, to Google. I say nothing because it’s probably worth many times over that by now.
But another company was just sold for 15 billion dollars, and it’s called Mobileye, and it basically does autonomous vehicles through artificial intelligence and the collation of data from censors on the car. 15 billion dollars. I think it was also sold cheap.
In any case Intel gave Mobileye, a company in Jerusalem, the keys to 30 of their businesses worldwide, so they can develop it. We didn’t do anything. If you went to Israel 10 years ago, you would not see… you would see maybe Mobileye, but none of these other companies, virtually none of them existed. We’re creating technologies and we’re creating industries and markets almost out of thin air.
Here’s another one that’s growing very rapidly – cyber. In cyber we invested. We invested quite a bit, because we invest in our intelligence services, but as a deliberate policy we allow the graduates of our intelligence services to form startups and to be able to join, to make partnerships with others – with other companies, with other nationals and so on. And that’s growing.
Israel now accounts for 20 percent of the global private investment in cyber security. That’s 200 times our size in the general population. This is an industry that grew out of nothing. Well, it’s growing out of the internet economy. And the internet is like a roaring tiger and on the tiger is a little kitten. A big kitten. It’s the kitten of cyber security. As the one grows, the other grows, and this by the way is an infinite business because there will never be a cyber-security solution. It’s endless.
Industry three – I give these just as examples – Industry three is digital health. We are able now to change the way people live, how healthy they are, what diseases they contact and what diseases we can avoid by preventive medicine or personalized medicine. We’re about to do this by taking the data bank of the Israeli population, 98 percent of the Israeli public has a computerized record, a card, of their medical records for the last 20 years. We’re going to take a sub-set of that – 100,000 people, and have swabs, genetic swabs of their saliva, so we know their genetic composition, and we’re going to take a subset of that – 2,000, and have censors, so we can monitor their physical activity.
We’ll now have a three-layer database, from which we believe we can have both preventive medicine, much more efficient, much less costly, and at the same time also develop personalized medicine. These are enormous industries, enormous. I know that people look at IT and they understand the great revolution that has happened, because if you looked at the 10 leading companies in the world, in market cap 10 years ago, and you look now – you see that five energy companies were there and one IT – Microsoft. Today, one is left, Exxon, it went from number one to number five, and five IT companies are there.
I’m arguing that you’re going to see other companies, or companies that are wedded to IT companies, they themselves will branch out into these areas of applying innovation to every field.
We talked quite a bit about agriculture. Today we have a revolution in agriculture. Not merely drip irrigation, and I congratulate the Mexican company that had the wisdom to buy Netafim the other day, great choice. But not only drip irrigation; it’s the ability with drone technology to photograph, to have imagery of fields and to see where you need drip fertilization, drip irrigation, where you don’t want it, where you’re wasting money. So you can increase the yield of crops. You can increase, we already have, the yield of cows. I always ask this question. It’s now an easy one to answer. Which cow produces more milk per cow? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not a French cow; it’s not a Dutch cow; it’s not even an American cow; it’s not a European cow. It’s an Israeli cow. It’s doubled the amount of milk per cow than the European cow. And this is all technology because it’s a computerized cow. Every moo is computerized. And you just can increase productivity.
I give this as examples for any field that you’re dealing with. Any field that you’re dealing with: mining, infrastructure, energy, agriculture, water, health, transport. You’re already in a technological revolution or you will be or you don’t know that you’re in, and that’s the worst situation to be in. That’s the worst situation to be in.
There are very few centers of cross-fertilized technology in the world. There are specializations in many areas. There are countries that excel in one area, one or two areas, other countries that excel in others. There are very few places where you have this cross-fertilization.
Israel is one such place. And I think there are very few of them, for the moment, for the next decade. And I think that we should, we can’t sit on our laurels, we don’t think that what we’ve achieved guarantees that we’ll achieve it forever. We have to constantly innovate our innovation, but we know one thing that we have to do: we have to couple this innovation into markets. Without markets we’ve got nothing.
And what better market, what better country to wed Israeli innovation to than Mexico? Mexico is emerging rapidly, it will be a giant. We believe in Mexico and I know that many in Mexico believe in Israel. We have a Jewish community that serves as a human bridge between our two countries and our two cultures and I admire Mexican culture.
I’ve had the opportunity to come here before, not as prime minister, but enough, and even on a brief visit, to understand the great resources from which you draw on. But I think that if we can combine our resources we can have a tremendous impact for the people of Mexico, for the people of the world, the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the way we organize our lives, our societies – this could be vastly improved by innovation.
Israel is the innovation nation, Mexico can be, Mexico and Israel can have a tremendous partnership. And I hope that this visit, and my meeting with President Nieto will mark — How shall I say this? It sounds like Casablanca — the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Well, the continuation of a beautiful friendship. And I thank you for assisting me.”