Magazine article SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico

Border Mayors to Lobby U.S. Government to Protect U.S.-Mexico Border Region

Magazine article SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico

Border Mayors to Lobby U.S. Government to Protect U.S.-Mexico Border Region

Article excerpt

Of any geographical region in North America, the US-Mexico border would lose the most if negotiators impose new restrictions on trade and investment during a revision of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). US, Mexican, and Canadian negotiators have already met in Washington and Mexico City, in late August and early September, with the third round of talks scheduled for Ottawa on Sept. 23-27.

The three countries hoped to conclude the framework for a renegotiated accord by the end of 2017, but differences in objectives could block the timetable. Mexico and Canada would like to tweak certain aspects of the agreement to benefit all three countries, while the US is seeking a more comprehensive overhaul that would help reduce its trade deficit with its two NAFTA partners (SourceMex, Aug. 23, 2017, and Sept. 6, 2017).

Mayors representing communities on both sides of the US-Mexico border have banded together to ensure that negotiators do not forget the benefits of cross-border economic relations. At least 18 of the mayors are set to meet with officials in Washington to remind US negotiators that border communities represent the backbone of bilateral trade and that the current benefits of NAFTA should be preserved.

A major concern is US President Donald Trump's threat earlier this year to impose a 35% tariff on goods assembled in Mexico by US companies and sold in the US market. The president has gone as far as to say the US could withdraw from NAFTA if negotiators are not able to reach an agreement that would stop US jobs from going to Mexico (SourceMex, Jan. 11, 2017, and Feb. 1, 2017).

The effort to protect the border communities is led by the US-Mexico Border Mayors Association, which held its annual gathering in San Diego and Tijuana in July. Seventeen mayors from communities of all sizes along the US-Mexico border signed a resolution highlighting the positive impact of trade, including 14 million jobs in the US. The resolution also noted that either Canada or Mexico is the first or second largest market for 43 US states.

Observers point out that the move by mayors to work together is a positive development.

"With ongoing political dysfunction in Washington, a lot of the governance of this country seems to be devolving to states and cities," Erik Lee, executive director of the North American Research Partnership, said in an interview with The San Diego Union-Tribune. "This could become an important organization."

Seeking NAFTA protections

The mayors suggested that negotiators should look for ways to strengthen NAFTA instead of gutting the accord. The resolution said the talks offer an "opportunity to renegotiate, modernize, and optimize North America's competitiveness."

The mayors called on Washington "to recognize the importance of trade between the US, Mexico, and Canada, because the jobs of millions of Americans rely on these binational ties," said Kevin Faulconer, mayor of San Diego, California, who has spearheaded the effort to include the viewpoint of border mayors in the NAFTA consultations.

"As the discussions occur in Washington, D.C., surrounding NAFTA, it's incredibly important for us to tell our story, a story of success, because if we're not telling it, nobody else is going to tell it for us," Faulconer said in an interview with marketplace.org. "Free trade works."

In reference to the Trump administration's proposals on NAFTA, Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum Buenrostro said, "The policies of the US federal government have not been optimum for our region."

Gastelum said the border mayors have a responsibility to make their point of view known to the NAFTA negotiators from the US and Mexico. "Independently of any efforts on the part of the Mexican and US federal governments, we believe it is important that negotiators--those who make the decisions--become aware of the advantages of the mega region of Baja Cali or Cali Baja, which is the San Diego-Tijuana corridor," he said in an interview with the Latin America Digital Beat (LADB) at a conference of mayors in Albuquerque in early September. …

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