• It is an honor to address the Fifth Edition of the Building a Competitive US-Mexico Border Conference, which has become a mandatory stopover for participants in the Mexico – US relations academic season.
  • My recognition to the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute and to the Border Trade Alliance for their vision when creating this annual event.
  • I would like to thank Duncan Wood, Director of the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center; as well as the Deputy Director, Christopher Wilson, for their kind invitation.
  • I invite you to take a close look at a map of the world. You will find just a handful places where two countries with different levels of development share a 2,000-mile land border, facing a wide range of opportunities and challenges.
  • The border puts the asymmetries, the differing cultures, and the contrasting visions of the world of Mexico and the United States in direct contact. It is also one of the few places on earth where a developed and an emerging economy face each other through such an extended geographical region.
  • For a very long time the border symbolized in many ways the cleavage, in Alan Riding’s words, between “Distant Neighbors”. More recently, we have both embarked upon a journey characterized by reciprocal discovery, joint approximation, and mutual confidence building.
  • In the mid-1990s the leaderships in both countries transformed the terms of our relationship. For the first time Mexico and the US engaged each other not only as neighbors, but as true partners and friends. Trade triggered economic integration, accelerating interdependence.
  • Fortunately, people on both countries discovered that interacting with each other brought mutual advantages. Consequently, our societies have generated one of the most complex and interdependent bilateral relationships in the world.
  • This unique collaboration between Mexico and the US reaches its most dynamic interaction at the border. Security, environment, trade, investment, culture, tourism, disaster management, social policy, and many other matters, converge at the border region.
  • Although we have been reminded that good neighbors can’t be taken for granted, political, economic and social actors should truly appreciate that our common border is one of the most agile and efficient bi-national regions on the globe. We are privileged to have built this highly efficient region, a space that integrates us profoundly and brings us closer together every day.
  • Our border plays a key role increasing our global competitiveness as a region:

o   A million dollars per minute, or approximately 1.4 billion dollars per day is traded across our common border.

 

o   Around 70% of bilateral trade crosses the border by our land ports of entry, along with over 1 million daily pedestrian crossings.

 

o   Every year, more than 300,000 vehicles and 70,000 trucks cross the border.

 

o   The 10 border states, 6 on the Mexican side and 4 on the US side, together represent the world's 4th largest economy.

  • Our border is not a line, but a highly complex and regionally-diverse region, which holds a variety of local realities and different levels of integration. We have no shortage of examples of the plurality of our border communities, with their respective public and private sector initiatives. To understand them better, it is essential to experience the border and live it fully, as many of you do.
  • At the border, there are unique socioeconomic realities:

o   Going west, the Cali-Baja megaregion, home to 90 college universities and 80 research institutions; moving eastward, the Sonora-Arizona megaregion, a strategic zone for the automotive, rail transportation, aviation and solar energy industries, amongst others.

  • This rich bilateral collaboration comes with its respective complexity and challenges.
  • Mexico and the US have developed several mechanisms to bring prosperity and security to the border.
  • The 21st Century Border Management Initiative (2010) allows our countries to administer the border region in the areas of infrastructure, secure flows of people and goods, security and law enforcement.

o   Continuing this close collaboration, during Secretary of Homeland Security Kiersten Nielsen’s recent visit to Mexico, our governments signed two agreements to further enhance border management efficiency: a Memorandum of Understanding on Cargo Pre-Inspection Program and Unified Cargo Processing (SAT-CBP), and an MOU on Agriculture safeguarding, agriculture quarantine inspections at ports of entry and information sharing (SENASICA-CBP).

 

o   These agreements will help facilitate the implementation and development of joint actions and programs to increase trade, customs compliance and to combat the illicit flows of goods at the border. [Signed on March 26, 2018].

  • Prosperity and security in our common border are not at odds with each other and can indeed reinforce each other mutually.
  • In turn, improvement of border infrastructure offers opportunities to enhance both security and prosperity.
  • We need to make sure that the border is secure, and at the same time, open and efficient, and that it allows trade to continue to grow and flow freely.
  • Despite the outstanding level of interaction and the steps taken historically to improve the management of our border, we still come across populist rhetoric about the border from time to time. Those statements are divisive, misinformed, distorted by stereotypes and prejudices, and have costly consequences for both our countries.
  • When this happens, our strong partnership is weakened, our friendship is eroded, sensibilities are offended and eventually, grievances emerge, placing obstacles between friends and neighbors, instead of building bridges among partners.
  • When negative rhetoric about our border pervades the atmosphere, we need to send a strong political message and to develop public policy that is well informed and based on the many realities at the border region. We need to make an assertive diagnosis of our challenges and opportunities at the border, so we can devise concrete solutions to real problems, always based on mutual respect.
  • The border region reflects, on a daily basis, the intense, complex and prosperous relationship between Mexico and the United States. The border is not only key to promote economic development and security, but it is a strategic bridge that connects our shared interests.
  • A forum like this one grants us the opportunity to discuss the multi-dimensional nature of this shared space and help us track the history of our collaboration. I wish you a productive discussion for the rest of the program. 

 Thank you.