PHOENIX – In their first official public appearance together, Gov. Doug Ducey and Mexican Ambassador to the U.S. Martha Bárcena discussed the depths of Arizona-Mexico ties and stressed the importance of ratifying the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which is meant to replace the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement.
Bárcena told a luncheon of government and business leaders from both sides of the border that one of the most important tasks for the administration of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is the congressional ratification of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which was signed in September 2018.
“The ratification of the USMCA is key,” Bárcena said. “If the agreement gets rejected, it will send a very bad signal for relationships with Mexico and Canada.”
Tuesday marked the first official U.S. visit for Bárcena, who became ambassador in January.
“The affection I have for Arizona,” she told the luncheon, sponsored by the Arizona-Mexico Commission. “Especially because you are warm people, because you are so closely related to Mexico, because you understand the challenges that we have ahead together, because you want to work with us for a better future for our two countries and for our North American region. … The Arizona-Sonora region is an ethno-cultural entity that precedes even the existence of both Mexico and the U.S. We were always integrated by geography, by history, by our common environment.”
Bárcena also said upgrades to ports of entry are needed if bilateral trade is to grow.
“We need more ports of entry and we need better ports of entry,” she said. “We need people not to wait hours to cross the border.”
Ducey agreed that cargo processing is vital to transborder trade, and it’s “important that trucks don’t get held up at the border.” Bárcena suggested at pilot program on unified cargo processing must be expanded.
The latest U.S. Census data on international trade show trade between Arizona and Mexico increased 7.7 percent, from $15.4 billion in 2017 to $16.7 billion in 2018.
Arizona exports to Mexico increased a modest 1 percent from $7.58 billion in 2017 to $7.65 billion in 2018, but is still down 17 percent overall from the recent high in 2015, when Arizona sold $9.16 billion in exports to Mexico. Imports to Arizona from Mexico increased 14 percent from 2017 to 2018 and reached $9.04 billion.
“There’s a lot more room to grow,” Ducey said of trade between Arizona and Mexico. “The USMCA will help.”
In February, Ducey sent a letter to members of Congress urging them to ratify the USMCA to modernize the trade agreements among the three partners and promote economic growth.
“USMCA is an update. You can think of it as NAFTA 2.0,” he said.
Bárcena also said Lopez Obrador’s administration will work to reduce poverty and violence in Mexico.
“We will be a better partner for Arizona, a better partner for the U.S. if we address those issues,” she said. “We need to have a common vision for the future of the border.”
The nonprofit Arizona-Mexico Commission was founded in 1959 by Arizona Gov. Paul J. Fannin and Sonoran Gov. Alvaro Obregonis to promote collective engagement toward regional goals and to create development opportunities across the border.