Mexican Trade Stature Rises with NAFTA

Article excerpt

MONTERREY, MEXICO -- Forget the big stick. Trade is the great equalizer in North America.

Increased trade because of the North American Free Trade Agreement is elevating Mexico, Canada and the United States to the same level in the global marketplace.

While nearly everyone involved with the negotiations recognized the economic impact that such an agreement will create -- few understood the political ramifications of the agreement and what's happening on the continent, a retired career United States ambassador said.

"The political impact is that Mexico is rising to the same level as the other countries," said Richard A. Rubottom, now a consultant for the firm of Dean International, a Dallas public policy consulting firm spearheading the drive to create an international trade corridor along Interstate 35.

"While the economic impact of NAFTA is going to be tremendous, the political impact is even more important," he said. "Politics of the economics is going to create something new in all countries. This is going to be the great equalizer for all the countries.

"Other countries no longer are going to look at Mexico the way they have, instead that country is a partner with Canada and the United States. That will increase its importance to the rest of the world."

Rubottom was one of the featured speakers during the fifth international meeting of America's Superhighway Coalition, the group that's trying to obtain international trade corridor status for I-35 and its major tributaries and connecting highways in all three countries. More than 165 people attended the meeting in Monterrey.

"This coalition is bringing about a cooperative effort, not just for economic but also for political changes, by appealing to all parties concerned," the former ambassador said.

The tri-lateral trade agreement has created the world's largest marketplace and is forcing harmonization of rules, regulations and laws, said Gary Doyle of Tucson, Ariz., director of the National Law Center for Inter-American Free Trade.

"Part of the legal issue now is the public truck standards and safety issues that are a part of the work of the three countries," Doyle said. "Border issues also are changing as the three work to harmonize tariff, trade, import and export regulations and documents, especially when it comes to EDI (electronic data interface) that will be used as they try to get a grip on the increased traffic crossing the borders."

Even with electronic commerce, though, it's going to be difficult to reach a harmonization on border issues, according to Leticia Moran, director of the U.S. Customs Port at Laredo, Texas, the largest inland port in the United States.

"We have 37,000 passenger vehicles and 4,700 trucks cross through our port every day," she said. …