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Promoting Competitiveness in the U.S.-Mexico Relationship

Sánchez on podium, gesturing

Guest blog post by Francisco J. Sánchez, Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Secretary, Department of Commerce

One billion dollars.

That number represents the two-way trade that happens between the United States and Mexico—every day. 

It’s a remarkable statistic, and a powerful symbol of the growing trade relationship and friendship between our two countries. Clearly, the story of the U.S. and Mexico is a story of progress. And, many from both countries are committed to ensuring that the next chapter of this story is full of greater opportunities for both peoples.

That’s why, earlier today, I was privileged to co-host the California Mexico Binational Mayor’s Conference with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

We were joined by U.S. and Mexican government and business leaders who came together to identify ways to strengthen our trade relations. Thankfully, we already have a solid foundation to build on.

Combined two-way trade in goods and services was nearly $400 billion dollars in 2010. From the United States’ vantage point, Mexico is our third-largest trading partner. It’s our-second largest export market. And, in California alone, $21 billion in merchandise exports went to Mexico last year—15 percent of the state’s total merchandise. 

Clearly, this partnership has been a key to the success of President Obama’s National Export Initiative, which has the goal of doubling U.S. exports by the end of 2014. Last year, exports supported 9.2 million jobs—and Mexico has obviously helped fuel this positive economic activity. 

But, today’s global economy is moving fast. And, no country can afford to stand pat and be satisfied. We’ve got to keep changing and evolving. 

At the conference today, I stressed the need for both our countries to increase competitiveness to succeed in the 21st century economy. 

Specifically, I urged participants to work in closer collaboration to achieve four goals:

  • Identify promising markets—both in terms of geography and industry;
  • Strive to open these markets and create a level playing field for all parties;
  • Make businesses aware of these opportunities;
  • And, give these businesses the support they need to seize these opportunities.  

Thankfully, a lot of work is already being done along these lines.  A prime example is the 21st century Border initiative launched last year by Presidents Obama and CalderĂłn. 

It’s based on a simple truth: that safe, efficient, secure and compatible transportation is essential for mutual economic growth. And, this bilateral interagency team is a key component to making significant border facilitation improvements.

Working with private sector partners, a number of efforts are being undertaken including:

  • Compatible trusted trader programs;
  • Pre-clearance and pre-inspection away from our borders;
  • A single-window data platform for imports and exports; and
  • Broad interagency and bilateral coordination at the border on inspections and processes.

This is important work because U.S. and Mexican businesses can’t be competitive if delays are costing time and money. These measures will improve cross-border trade and give companies an extra edge in the marketplace.

I also made the case for businesses—from both sides of the borders—to get involved in clean energy. Quite simply, clean tech is the future. And, our countries have to be leaders in this space if we’re to remain leaders in the global economy. 

In September, I led a delegation of 19 U.S. clean energy companies to Mexico, where it’s estimated that energy demand will likely double by 2030. 

With its tremendous resource potential—in wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and hydropower—Mexico has the ability to meet this demand with clean, renewable energy.  And, U.S. companies can help with that effort and achieve the triple bottom line: profits for businesses, jobs for people and a healthier planet for all. 

The bottom line is this: success in Mexico means success here at home–and vice versa. It’s in both our countries’ interests to work together and sharpen our competitive edges.

Today’s California Mexico Binational Mayor’s Conference was an important step in this effort.

And, I look forward to taking additional steps with these partners to bring new opportunities for our countries.

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