Organizers: The Woodrow Wilson Center, Mexico Institute, the Border Trade Alliance, ProMéxico and Asociación de Empresarios Mexicanos.

Sharing the floor with: Alan Bersin (panelist) and Scott Peters (D-CA) (moderator).


  • More than a century has passed since President Porfirio Diaz famously said: “Poor Mexico so far from God, so close to the United States”. Today, nothing could be further from the truth. The United States and Mexico now share a mutually beneficial relationship in which the mistrust of the past is slowly being replaced by a new era of increased social and economic ties.  No place better illustrates the transformations and opportunities that this new era brings than our common border.

  • The border between Mexico and the United States is an inflection point where the interaction of commerce, people, and cultures meet in a dynamic confluence of intense exchange.

  • Along our shared border that stretches more than 2,000 miles, there are 14 million inhabitants in an area that includes 6 Mexican States and 4 U.S. States. Taken together, the border region would represent the world’s 4th largest economy.

  • Our bilateral relationship is one of the most complex relationships in the world. There might not be two countries on the globe that rely more on each other than Mexico and the US. For instance, a million dollars per minute is being traded across our common border, that figure translates into around 1.3 billion dollars per day. More than 500 billion dollars in trade circulates between Mexico and the US each year.

  • Moreover, around 70 per cent of trade crosses the border by land, along with the 1 million people who cross it on a daily basis.  The border crossings between Mexico and the United States are some of the busiest in the world, with 56 ports of entry and around 300,000 vehicle crossings taking place daily.

  • Undoubtedly, size and proximity matter: in this case, the intense and vast interactions between Mexico and the United States are a critical mass that we cannot ignore.

  • For a little perspective on how much commerce passes through the U.S.-Mexico border, consider that in 2013, the total dollar amount of Mexican exports and imports with its neighbors in the south (Guatemala and Belize) was 4.8 billion dollars, while the total amount of imports and exports that passed through just one border crossing with the US, at Nuevo Laredo-Laredo, was 193 billion dollars. So a year’s worth of trade through Mexico’s southern borders is roughly equivalent to about 9 days of trade through the northern border crossing at Nuevo Laredo.

  • On Mexico’s southern border, the challenges are not about dealing with high trade volumes, but rather with security in a region with particular levels of economic and social development. In sharp contrast, in the north the challenge is indeed how to manage high trade volumes through investing in better infrastructure, more personnel and the implementation of effective and modern customs and logistical procedures.


  • The diagnosis is very clear: Mexico and the United States have 21st Century trade, with a 20th Century legal framework, and a 19th Century border infrastructure.

  • We have very effective mechanisms devoted to the management of different complex challenges taking place at the border in areas such as water management and environmental issues. The International Boundary and Water Commission (CILA); the management of the Bridges and Border Crossings along our shared border within a Binational Group on this field; and the newly created 21st Century Border Initiative which covers a broad scope of issues associated with our common border—infrastructure, secure flows of goods and people, law enforcement, all with a short and medium term vision through the adoption of yearly plans with specific goals to be achieved in order to foster bilateral cooperation. In the end, it encourages commerce and facilitates trade as a key component of our bilateral cooperation and prosperity for the 21st century.

  • During the recent North American Leaders’ Summit in Toluca, Mexico (February 2014), our governments agreed to leverage existing bilateral border mechanisms to enhance the secure movement of goods across North America, and promote trilateral exchanges on logistics corridors and regional development.

  • The High Level Economic Dialogue recognizes the border region as a catalyst for development, promoting competitiveness and enhanced connectivity.

  • Our countries are coordinating traffic management strategies to expeditiously process trusted traders, reducing waiting times and making progress towards mutual recognition of the North American trusted traveler programs such as NEXUS, Global Entry and the Programa Viajero Confiable. At the same time, programs like FAST, SENTRI and Ready Lane will continue ensuring regional security and agile inspection procedures at the border.

  • The North American Transportation Plan, also established at the North American Leaders Summit, beginning with a regional freight plan and building on existing initiatives, will streamline procedures and harmonize customs data requirements for traders and visitors.

  • However, there is still a need for a shared, holistic and strategic vision for the future.


  • Beyond bilingual, beyond binational, beyond bicultural, the U.S. - Mexico border is a world in and of itself. The border region is the lifeline of our joint economic future and it’s time to embrace that.

  • We are not going anywhere, and it is time for us to get to know our border better and look at what we can do to manage it in a more efficient way. We must put our political will behind binational initiatives and programs designed to foster collaboration and a better understanding.

  • As soon as we begin to manage our shared border more efficiently, it will translate into a more secure region and, eventually, into a seamless space of prosperity that will increase standards of living in both our societies.

  • The border is also about our people: Border Millennials - bilingual, binational, and bicultural, born in the era of globalization and the Internet—a NAFTA generation.  Share perspectives and beliefs that transcend nationalities and conquer stereotypes, thus facilitating new and adventurous interactions between North American neighbors.

  • We should take advantage of the young Border Millennials, who are building a new cultural identity, deepening long-standing ties between our communities and who, on a daily basis see the border as a conduit, rather than as a barrier.

  • We need to find a new model to face the challenges of the XXI century and to take advantage of the world’s reality: the economic playing field has broadened and competition around the globe has generated both challenges and opportunities where previously there were none; new markets have appeared and new competitors have emerged.

  • Raising wages in Asia and high energy costs around the globe compare to low transaction costs in Mexico and the United States—considering their proximity to one another— make the border and our region a more desirable place to do businesses.

  • We must first realize that the integration of our economies makes us stronger.


  • What we need is to have a strategic vision of North America. We have to have a more holistic approach on how to manage the border, instead of focusing in individual projects.

  • To reach the next level for North America’s integration and competitiveness we need to have a much stronger and proactive engagement between the public and private sector, and truly think and act regionally.

  • Booming trade and investment has not been limited to the border. Mexico is one of the top three export destinations for the goods of thirty-two different US states, and a rising middle class in Mexico means we will continue to consume more and more US goods.

  • It is time to turn off the “auto-pilot” switch that Mexico and the US switched on 20 years ago and to rethink the best avenues for making our border a more prosperous and stronger region.

  • A proposal: to develop a comprehensive approach to the border we should have one summit that encompasses all fields of study: economy, trade, demography, culture, politics, education, infrastructure, security. The purpose of such a summit would be to provide us with a road map for the future: we no longer need to focus on the past; we need to construct a joint vision for the future and work to make it reality.