Border stakeholders urge governments to prepare today for tomorrow’s trade flows
MEXICO CITY – The Border Trade Alliance and BTA de México today convened a roundtable of government and industry leaders to design the framework of a study that will assess the needs of the U.S. and Mexico governments as each country prepares for increased trade flows.
The event was attended by U.S. Representatives Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) and Will Hurd (R-Texas), as well as representatives of the U.S. Department of State, Mexico’s customs agency (Aduanas), the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute and businesses involved in cross-border trade.
“The message of today’s important discussion was that we can’t wait for complete border gridlock before we direct badly needed resources to our land border ports of entry,” BTA México Chairman Rigoberto Villarreal said “Investment in Mexico is growing, which means trade volumes between the U.S. and Mexico will grow, too. We need to be ready, but our ports are already overburdened.”
Much of the discussion centered on agency staffing levels and aging infrastructure, two issues that have contributed to crossing delays along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“Customs and Border Protection in the U.S. and Aduanas in Mexico are doing the best they can to process trade,” Border Trade Alliance President Noe Garcia, III said. “But unless real budgetary resources in both governments are devoted to new resources and to updating aging infrastructure, we will continue to face these same challenges and they will only worsen.”
Participants also lamented outdated processes and stressed the need to look to technology and modernized practices to handle growing trade flows.
“Both industry and government have known for years that inspecting cargo as far away from the port of entry is preferable to clogging the inspection lanes with truckload after truckload,” BTA Chairman Jesse Hereford said. “More human resources and new ports won’t meet our challenges if we continue to rely on old ways of thinking.”
The BTA in the next year hopes to produce a report that can be shared with government decision-makers and industries in both countries that will project future trade flows and allow governments to anticipate where the greatest needs will be so that further bottlenecks can be averted.
“If we wait until the border is at a standstill, it’s too late. The time to prepare is now,” Garcia said.