Pena Nieto and Lula in April 2013.
Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto (L) greets Brazil's former President Luis Inacio Lula Da Silva in Mexico City in this April 19, 2013 handout provided by the Mexico Presidency. REUTERS/Mexico Presidency/Handout

Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto responded on Wednesday to a jab made by former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva during a conference on economic themes in Spain on Sunday, saying the two countries “aren’t in a competition” and adding he had “great respect” for Lula, according to Animal Politico. Da Silva had seen himself at pains to dismiss fears that Brazil’s economy could be in the midst of a lapse under the leadership of his successor Dilma Rousseff, and waved away speculation that Mexico could be the new nation in ascent in the hemisphere.

Of the basics of Mexico’s economy, “everything is worse than in Brazil”, said Lula in Brazil. “What they’re making better,” he added in reference to the energy reform which will soon open the country’s oil reserves to exploitation by foreign firms for the first time in some 75 years, “we already did with Petrobras 20 years ago.” He went on to cite Mexico’s frequent mention among journalists and economists as the “big new thing of the twenty-first century”, he repeated his earlier claims that Brazil was the “fifth biggest economy in the world”.

Relations between the two countries are generally friendly, and Mexican leaders have long said they want to boost trade links with Brazil (in part to decrease reliance on the US), but investors have often been discouraged by mistrust. When asked about Lula’s comments, Peña Nieto sought to smooth things over. “Each country, at its own pace, has pushed changes and reforms to promote its development,” he said. “We respect the path taken by Brazil, which is a reference for other countries, but Mexico has its own path.”

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