During this past week, in my official capacity as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Market Access and Compliance, I had the privilege of leading a high-level delegation of U.S. and Mexico government officials on a tour of the U.S.-Mexico border region, which, with $460 billion in trade passing across it each year, is one of the most economically significant borders in the world. As a native New Mexican, I was especially proud to highlight the vast commercial benefits that the border region generates for both countries. The trip included stops in San Diego/Tijuana; NM/Santa Teresa; El Paso; Laredo/Nuevo Laredo; and Monterrey, Mexico.
At each stop, stakeholders repeated the theme that we—government and business—must work together to change the narrative about the border. The goal is not to diminish awareness of the fact that real security challenges exist; rather, we need to increase awareness that there is more to the border story. Both countries are critical to the economy of the other, and one of our goals for this trip was to highlight the fact that new commercial opportunities exist and that the border serves a critical role in facilitating the essential flow of goods and people between Mexico and the U.S.
Our delegation consisted of U.S. and Mexico government officials and members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. We conducted stakeholder outreach events related to the border trade facilitation efforts under the U.S.-Mexico 21st Century Border Management initiative, which was established by Presidents Obama and Calderon in May 2010 as a vehicle to develop and promote a more secure and seamless border between our two countries. These events provided us with an opportunity to share information with stakeholders about the ongoing work and accomplishments of the initiative and to receive important, on-the-ground feedback from them, which can be incorporated into the 21st Century Border Management work streams.
The trip was also an opportunity to call attention to many of the important local partners that help facilitate the International Trade Administration’s (ITA) work in promoting exports and fostering cross-border trade. I was proud to honor several local individuals and businesses by presenting them with ITA Border Champion Awards for their outstanding and tireless efforts to create significant cross-border trade and business opportunities in their communities.
In Tijuana, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Tony Wayne, and I, witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between ITA’s Commercial Service (CS) and the Tijuana Economic Development Corporation. The MOA guarantees continued CS support in Tijuana for U.S. companies doing business in the region.
In my home state of New Mexico, representatives from state, county and local stakeholders joined the New Mexico Border Authority to give the traveling delegation an overview of the economic development work that is taking place along the New Mexico border. We were thrilled to have a packed house! These local stakeholders explained to our delegation how the border is actually driving regional economic development. It’s a virtuous circle of sorts: economic development along the border is leading to major infrastructure and transportation projects, which then draws industry and creates high paying jobs.
After the presentation, we were taken on a driving tour that included a large solar farm, the state’s largest cattle crossing, and the new construction site of Union Pacific’s refueling project. The day concluded with a reception to celebrate the region’s success and honor two local entrepreneurs who have played a critical role in promoting economic growth and exports. Given the interconnectedness of the region, it was no surprise that stakeholders from Texas, Chihuahua, and New Mexico were present.
Early the following morning, we kicked off the 21st Century Border Management stakeholder intake meeting with El Paso’s Mayor John Cook and a packed room of over 70 stakeholders from Ciudad Juarez and El Paso. Participants shared their concerns and ideas on how to improve border commerce in the area with a bi-national panel of representatives from the U.S. Departments of Commerce, State, Transportation, Customs and Border Protection, and the Mexican Secretary of Economy and Customs.
Traveling on to Laredo, Texas, the delegation had the opportunity to listen to presentations from representatives of the Laredo land and air ports of entry and to presentations from the mayors of both Laredo and Nuevo Laredo. After hearing their presentations, we engaged in a 21st Century Border Management initiative roundtable that focused on our common challenges with respect to border facilitation. The delegation then traveled across the border into Nuevo Laredo, where business leaders presented an overview of the Nuevo Laredo business climate. I also had the opportunity to share with these local leaders the goals of and insights gleaned from our border meetings, and I committed to return in order to continue our productive dialog.
Finally, in Monterrey, I had the opportunity to meet with Nuevo Leon Governor Rodrigo Medina. My meeting with Governor Medina was focused on how we can bring jobs back to North America. Specifically, we discussed how our two countries could improve collaboration to attract investment to the NAFTA region. I also had the privilege of announcing a new strategic partnership between the U.S. Department of Commerce’s ITA and Cintermex—a local trade show organizer that hosts more than 600 events annually. The partnership calls for ITA’s CS staff to coordinate export promotion training with Cintermex’s clients in order to highlight the benefits of exporting. Cintermex will identify Nuevo Leon companies that are keen on sourcing to the United States, and we will jointly work to develop trade fairs that match targeted industry sector buyers from both sides of the border.