WASHINGTON – More than 250 government officials and business leaders from the United States and Mexico gathered for a three-day conference to highlight the critical role that bilateral trade plays in strengthening the national, state and local economies of both countries and to discuss efforts to expand and improve cross-border trade.
Assistant Commerce Secretary Michael Camuñez helped to lead the U.S. delegation to the September 23-25 “Realizing the Economic Strength of Our 21st-Century Border” conference in Tempe, Arizona.
“The United States-Mexico border region is one of the most important commercial and trade corridors in the world,” Camuñez said in addressing the conference. “The scale of the relationship is so vast that its impact extends well beyond the border and into the interior of both countries and is critical to both of our countries’ economic growth and stability.”
In 2011, two-way trade in goods exceeded $460 billion – roughly $1.3 billion each day. Accounting also for trade in services would bring the total to more than half a trillion dollars annually.
“The trend in U.S.-Mexico trade is positive and keeps growing,” Camuñez said. “It’s a synergistic relationship that benefits both countries.”
He said since the inception of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, U.S.-Mexico trade has more than quintupled.
Much of this growth has taken place in the 10 U.S. and Mexican border states. With a combined population of nearly 100 million people, these states comprise a region that is comparable to the world’s fourth-largest economy.
“It is the border that drives this dynamic economic partnership that puts millions of Americans and Mexicans to work and provides for the kind of upward mobility that is the promise of both nations,” Camuñez said. “What’s more, it is vital to our shared competitiveness.”
The assistant secretary said this is why the United States and Mexico are working together with Canada as a regional economic platform in global markets.
“In fact, with its open markets, low tariffs, strong protections for intellectual property, low energy costs, skilled workforce and, importantly, integrated supply chains, the North American platform is one of the most globally competitive regions in the world,” Camuñez said.
He said that despite the region’s success to date, there is even more that can be done and that the border is the key to achieving it.
“Our shared border represents not a line that divides us, but a critical asset that contributes to our shared prosperity,” Camuñez said.
To leverage the power of this proximity will require the administrations of U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon to follow through on the leaders’ 2010 joint declaration on “21st-Century Border Management.”
According to the Commerce Department, the proposed framework is designed to enhance economic competitiveness while augmenting security and public safety by increasing border capacity; expanding trusted traveler and shipper programs; and exploring opportunities for pre-clearance, pre-inspection and pre-screening processes for commercial goods and travelers.
The conference, co-hosted by the U.S. Commerce Department and the North American Center for Transborder Studies at Arizona State University, was launched to support the shared trade and economic goals of the U.S. and Mexican governments.