“Balancing Trade and Security at the Border”

2016 US-Mexico Border Summit

El Paso, Texas, 4 de agosto, 2016

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It is a pleasure for me to be here with you today and share the stage with Ambassador of the United States to Mexico, Roberta Jacobson, a dear friend and one of the finest experts on Mexico-US relationship.

I would like to thank Rolando Pablos, CEO of the Borderplex Alliance and Congressman Beto O’Rourke for accepting the challenge and continuing to make this summit possible. After 13 years, the idea of maintaining these kinds of events is still valid and crucial.

Dear friends, from the outset, let me say it loud and clear:  this border unites us.  Yes, it is a geographical partition with all its complexities and challenges, but more importantly, it is a source of prosperity and opportunity for both our countries.

I am convinced that the ties between Mexico and the U.S. are some of the strongest and deepest between any two nations in the world, and that this is emphasized in our common border.  We share more than a geographic space, we share culture, interests, values and of course, people.  I cannot think of a better example of our intertwined bond that the population along the border.

Their daily lives involve business, trade, education, tourism and family connections.  For hundreds of thousands of them --of you-- crossing this geographic line every day might feel as common as the daily commute to work feels for us in Washington, D.C. or Mexico City.

So those in our capital cities, particularly, need to know that we are doing great things at the border so that we can get the political and economic support from both nations to continue building bridges and expanding opportunities.

Ambassador Jacobson and I understand that.  In our previous capacities and our current ones, we have been collaborating to foster economic development and trade facilitation. We both also know that this can only be done in a secure space.

Ambassador Jacobson already mentioned our cooperation on Cargo Pre-Inspection Programs in three strategic locations. These programs are of paramount importance because they will grease the wheels of trade and travel between our two countries. As she mentioned, they help reduce transaction costs, as shipments are inspected only once by both customs authorities, reducing border wait times and traffic congestion, and they allow us to optimize investment in infrastructure and equipment, as well as deter fraud and smuggling.    Another remarkable initiative is the harmonization of our cargo manifests. Our customs authorities have made significant progress in harmonizing the cargo manifests in all modes of transportation.  

The manifest for northbound rail shipments is practically completed, as well as the manifests for air and maritime environments. Our authorities intend to complete the northbound rail manifest this summer and initiate the development of the southbound component and the truck manifest before the end of this year.

This means less paperwork and more business, benefiting all stakeholders involved in bilateral commerce by reducing transaction costs, expediting the border crossing process and facilitating trade.

We also have agreed to develop bilateral instruments such as the 21st Century Border Mechanism that allows us to keep track of our progress as well as evaluate our needs and establish new priorities for the future. It is clear to both countries that continuous collaboration is vital in order to take advantage of our vast resources and achieve economic growth and competitiveness.

A smart and efficient border means more growth, more jobs, and better standards of living.  It also means working together on security. I am glad to report that our relationship and our views about the border have evolved in recent years.  

We recognize the importance of managing our common space from a perspective of joint responsibility.  Today, security agencies on both sides of the border communicate on a daily basis, exchanging information and intelligence to identify and prevent threats.

We work together against organized crime, drug, arms and human trafficking, money laundering, fraud prevention and many other areas that affect our communities and might otherwise prevent us from our common goal of achieving an orderly, dynamic and secure border.

Our frank and open dialogue about the border also takes place at the highest level of our leadership. Just two weeks ago, our presidents met in Washington, D.C. to talk about the importance of continuing to strengthen our cooperation on trade facilitation and securing our border. They discussed the expansion of cargo pre-inspection, the possibility of having passenger pre-clearance, as well as developing entry/exit programs.

We have accomplished great things. Ambassador Jacobson and I were in San Diego a couple of weeks ago and witnessed the opening of the Cross Border Xpress pedestrian bridge connecting the Tijuana International Airport with San Diego, California. This innovative project highlights the positive commitment of our countries to continue building bridges together and bonds with each other.  

We must persist in fostering and working on new ideas and initiatives that will keep us at the forefront. Our border is a dynamic region full of ongoing ventures, enterprises and projects. Organizations like Borderplex Alliance and El Paso Foreign Trade Zone 68, along with local governments, are collaborating to establish platforms to continue stimulating trade and commerce in the region with events like “The El Paso-Ciudad Juárez Industry Summit” (April 28th, 2016).

Our countries are creating a sophisticated web of supply chains in a varied number of industries including aerospace, autos, electronics, machinery and precision instruments. We are both adding value by sharing labor knowledge, components, technology and distribution systems. On average, 40% of the content in Mexican exports is made in the United States. Mexico and the U.S. build things together, so we are working together in a “hands on” effort to enable swift and secure trade between our two countries.

And Texas is one of the best examples of the trade opportunities between our countries. Mexico is the largest market for goods from Texas.  In 2015 alone, Texas exports to Mexico reached 94.5 billion dollars.  Since the implementation of NAFTA, Texas exports to Mexico have jumped almost 370 percent, and we find similar dynamics along the border region.

So, to sum up some of our efforts at the border:  Mexico and the United States are working together every day to advance priorities that will bring substantial benefits to our citizens.

Over the past two decades, we have realized that the integration of our economies makes us stronger. We are managing our shared border more efficiently and effectively, and it has translated into a more secure and prosperous region that, without a doubt, is contributing to increased living standards in both our societies. 

And we are also investing in one of our most important resources—our people.  Right here in El Paso, for example, the University of Texas at El Paso, along with the Instituto de Mexicanos en el Exterior, established a decade ago a program to provide scholarships to Mexican and Mexican-American students who want to attend university and other classes.  This program, and others like it, are helping to increase understanding between our countries and assist in the development of a 21st century work force.

Ladies and Gentleman,

All of you gathered here today have a deep knowledge of the border region. You live the border every day. You know the organizations that are involved and work in the region daily. You are part of and know about its people. You understand its complexity. However, much of the public in both of our countries does not know how our governments and communities, “all of us”, are deeply engaged in transforming this region into something that will shape the future of our nations and improve their lives. 

It is now our joint responsibility to describe our peoples the remarkable things that are happening at our shared border, emphasizing facts and figures, rather than fear or misinformation. More than ever, we must unite in our efforts to showcase the positive outcomes, projects and benefits of our interaction as neighbors, partners and friends. It is our job to highlight the importance of continuing to build bridges, not walls. 

¡Muchas gracias!