On Oct. 15, the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales began accepting passengers through a new $200 million expansion which, according to early estimates, could move as much as $35 billion worth of products through its upgraded car, bus, and truck lanes this year alone.
This welcome development is a boon not only to our border communities, but all of Arizona. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, Mexico is on a path toward becoming the world’s seventh-largest economy by 2050, up from its current position of 14. And since the beginning of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) more than 20 years ago, the importance of this relationship has only become more important to the people of our state.
In fact, high-volume trade and commerce of products including agricultural produce, minerals and ore, oil and gas, and high-tech and electronic products between Arizona and Mexico have grown exponentially in recent years, yielding over $14 billion in bilateral trade.
We should all be gratified by the concerted steps that Gov. Brewer, state and local officials, and the business community are taking to build upon and promote economic exchange with our No. 1 trade partner. Those steps include not only expanding the Mariposa Port, but also opening the Arizona Mexico City Trade and Investment Office, which the cities of Phoenix and Tucson spearheaded in partnership with the Arizona Commerce Authority, the Maricopa Association of Governments and Visit Phoenix. There is no doubt that such initiatives will strengthen economic development opportunities statewide.
At the local level, Mayor Danny Ortega of Douglas is leading efforts to develop a public-private partnership to harness the business community’s financing power to modernize the Douglas Land Port of Entry. Working together, the local business community, local officials, the federal government, and the Mexican government could yield significant savings for the American taxpayer, as well as increase trade opportunities for Arizona.
While all of these efforts will strengthen Arizona’s economy and Arizona-Mexico relations, we must do more to remove regulatory hurdles that stand in the way of increased trade. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Arizona has actually seen foreign exports fall over the past decade. By comparison, Texas exports have increased 66 percent during that same time.
I recently wrote a letter to several major banks, including Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and JPMorgan Chase, which all operate in communities along the Arizona-Mexico border. In the letter, I highlighted the disturbing fact that over the past year, these banks have scaled back on the financial services offered in these communities by closing branches, creating new obstacles for Arizona companies that do business with Mexico. While federal regulatory burdens may be contributing to this problem, it is crucial for the economic vitality of border communities that local business have access to capital and other banking services.
I am encouraged by the path Arizona is on, but we must do more to support creative solutions that will help us to expand trade opportunities with Mexico. By cultivating public-private partnerships to build better infrastructure and removing obstacles that hinder trade opportunities, Arizona can create more robust economic development policies that will benefit both small and large businesses, create more jobs, and drive greater economic prosperity for hardworking citizens of the Grand Canyon State. After all, if we don’t make it easy to do business in Arizona, I am sure Texas will be more than happy to oblige.