December 20, 2013
Arizona Daily Star
Matt Salmon

Every day, $1.3 billion in trade flows between the United States and Mexico.

As chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, I convened a hearing last week in Tucson on cross-border trade between the two neighbor countries. We explored what we need to do both in the public and private sectors to improve border infrastructure, logistics and manpower to cultivate our robust trading partnership with Mexico without letting down our guard on border-security efforts.

The economies of the United States and Mexico are deeply intertwined — linked by geography, cultural ties and the North American Free Trade Agreement. Since NAFTA took force nearly 20 years ago, the stock of bilateral foreign direct investment has increased six-fold, topping half a trillion dollars in 2012 alone.

Trade is not a partisan issue. As our field hearing demonstrated through the participation of my Arizona colleagues Reps. Kyrsten Sinema (Dem.), David Schweikert (Rep.) and Ron Barber (Dem.), we all know that growing trade is good for our economy, job creation and security. A more prosperous Mexico will help address many of the binational issues we continue to confront, including illegal immigration and smuggling.

The United States is already partnering with Mexico on security through the Merida Initiative, which I support. Efforts to further secure our border can be achieved without hampering better and more efficient flow of commerce across our various ports of entry. Border security and efficient flows of commerce need to be mutually conducive efforts.

This past summer, a delegation of business leaders from Pharr, Texas, traveled to Rio Rico and Tucson to promote their commercial port of entry on the U.S.-Mexico border and to encourage companies to relocate from Arizona to Texas.

Their presence served as evidence that cross-border trade that should come through Arizona runs the risk of being diverted due to inadequate infrastructure along the Arizona-Mexico border. Arizona is addressing this by spending more than $200 million to expand the Mariposa Port of Entry. When completed next year, it will facilitate an increase in volume.

However, more needs to be done to improve — indeed, modernize — trade facilitation and border infrastructure, particularly through better staffing practices that ease the flow of commerce.

Our economic partnership with Mexico has the potential to play a key role in strengthening supply chains and boosting exports to the rest of the world. Our production-sharing relationship with Mexico is important to understand — in fact, 40 percent of the value of U.S. imports of final goods from Mexico actually comes from materials and parts produced in the United States. This means that approximately 40 cents of every dollar U.S. consumers spend on Mexican imports actually goes to U.S. companies and workers. This is a direct result of production-sharing that is made possible and enhanced by proximity and cultural ties with our Mexican and Canadian neighbors. The same cannot be said for goods coming from anywhere outside of North America. For example, U.S. imports from China have an average of only 4 percent U.S. content.

The good news is that our commercial relationship with Mexico continues to grow. The bad news is that our ports of entry face significant challenges keeping up with this growth, resulting in border wait times that cost $7.2 billion a year. Arizona will benefit from policymakers working together to address this problem.

The congressional hearing last week was an important step toward this goal, and I intend to work hard to ensure that Arizona’s ports of entry are secure, well-staffed and a vibrant gateway to more jobs and commerce for our state and our country.

U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon is a Republican representing Arizona’s District 5.

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