Looking Beyond Our Borders: United States and Mexico Share Trade and Interconnected Economies

Written by

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar As Chairman and founder of the bi-partisan House Pro-Trade Caucus, U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar is widely regarded as a national trade expert. Across Texas, businesses and communities alike applaud his support for the Central American Free Trade Agreement and the North American Free Trade Agreement. As the largest exporter of goods in the nation, Texas currently grosses more than $100 billion a year by conducting trade with other nations. Congressman Cuellar is currently the Ranking Member of the Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee in the House Homeland Security Committee. He believes in strong national security and homeland security efforts. Since coming to Congress, he's worked hand in hand with Customs and Border Protection, the Department of Homeland Security, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and local law enforcement to reinforce border security initiatives along the U.S. southern border with Mexico. In 2010, the House Homeland Security Committee appointed him as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Border, Maritime and Global Counterterrorism.

Contrary to what many people believe, the U.S.-Mexico border is not the wild, wild southwest border; it is a modernized 21st century border that is rich in trade and economic opportunities. I represent a part of the United States where trade has become a part of daily life. 

While there are border security issues, there is also more to the border story than the stigmas associated with the area. Trade, tourism, retail, international education, and foreign investment link the U.S.-Mexico border and builds strong economic ties that are interconnected and reliant upon each other. The southwest border may share problems, but shares more opportunities, especially with trade.

The unsung hero of our economic recovery is the U.S.-MX trade relations. By strengthening the ties between Mexico and the United States, we can boost the economic output and create more jobs, which have seen staggering improvements over the years. Since the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), trade between the two countries has risen nearly 500%. Mexico was the United States’ second largest goods export market in 2011. Six million jobs were created in the U.S. because of business with Mexico. For every dollar Mexico gains from exports, fifty cents is spent on American goods, according to the Secretary of the Economy Secretariat of the Economy of Mexico. More than $1.2 billion in goods trade crosses the U.S.-Mexico border each day. For these reasons, trade between the U.S. and Mexico is opportune to create economic results in real-time.

Given our experience with the North American Free Trade Agreement and Mexico’s remarkable economic and trade performance, the newest trade agreement under construction is the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), which can be seen as the NAFTA 2.0. I believe the United States and Mexico can meet the high standards of the TPP and provide substantial economic benefits to the United States in the process to double our exports and modernize our approach to do so. With the current and upcoming trade agreements, it is our responsibility to maintain and support this vital collaboration between the two countries. Naturally, with every responsibility come challenges. It is our job to come up with solutions to border security issues, infrastructure demands and budget constraints.

Border Security

Once we are able to increase trade flow via trade agreements and demand in goods and services, the U.S. must also increase border safety. One example of this is the Plan Merida; for every one dollar of assistance the United States has provided through the Merida Initiative, the Government of Mexico has dedicated roughly $13 to combating cartels and improving its security. The federal government must be prepared to open our borders for increased trade, but with that comes more traffic, more trucks and unfortunately, more opportunity for illegal activity. The formula is simple: more trade equates to more border security. I am confident that Enrique Peña Nieto, President elect, will continue to foster positive relationships with the U.S and border community by collaborating with our government to address increased trade and border security.

Infrastructure, staffing and management

The land ports of entry at our border are constrained, outdated and in need for upgrades. Better infrastructure at our ports along the border will allow a faster flow of goods from our ports, while more staffing will bring increased efficiency to trade. We need to hire more men and women not only in green uniforms (border patrol), but also in blue uniforms (customs).  Additionally, productivity can be enhanced with improved management to create an environment of getting more done, including better customer service and less wait times. By giving the ports an extreme makeover from the actual infrastructure to staffing, both sides can benefit in the overall process.

Creative Funding

While the U.S. government grapples with tighter budgets, I understand the consequences of asking agencies and entities to do more with less. It’s tough. Therefore, we need common-sense, creative funding solutions to give the necessary resources to achieve real results. For example, we can bring in additional funding by creating public private partnerships for investments along our border, including better infrastructure or more staffing. This will allow members of the public and private sectors to work together, collaborate expertise, and operate towards a shared, common goal to improve the flow of goods and services.

I believe that once we are able to look beyond our borders and focus on supporting a more robust trade environment, we will be able to leverage best practices,  and address challenges to catapult our southwest border into a 21st century border that fuels our American economy even more. The United States and Mexico share much more than a 2,000 mile border; we share infinite economic opportunities.

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