I was asked recently about my opinion on the temperature of our business community following the election. I responded with a mixed message - optimism related to perceptions of how the Trump administration may make it easier to do business in the U.S and trepidation based on his campaign rhetoric related to Hispanics, Mexico and women.

As a Hispanic woman who works closely with allies in Mexico, it is difficult to remain unaffected. Based upon the worldwide response to the recent Women’s March, President Trump is controversial, to say the least. However, from a business perspective, his focus on lessening business regulation and growing our economy has been refreshing. His “America First” mantra has been received very positively from most segments of the business community around the nation, as well as locally.

Trump has been in office for just over a week and many of his recent actions disproportionately impact Arizona citizens. It is vitally important that our state engage in the discussion and debate. Last week, I read with concern about the building of the great wall and a pending executive order. On one hand, this will bring construction jobs to Arizona's border, but what does this do to U.S relations and our growing business relationships with our partner, Mexico?  

Our Chamber represents businesses that benefit directly from Mexican citizens shopping and traveling in Nogales, Tucson, Douglas, Sierra Vista. We must consider the impact and threat to our local economies – to the business owner’s loss of revenues and the loss of sales tax, hotel taxes, gas taxes, and more on tax revenues to cities, counties, Arizona and the federal government. Border security is a top concern for many Americans, but the balance of trade and the economic impact on our nation cannot be diminished.

Since the election, our Chamber has focused on building a communication channel at the federal level to raise our voice on the role of trade to our nation and our state. We have drafted opinion papers and spoken up on the importance of our trade relationship with Mexico to our state’s economy. I had the opportunity to attend a Trump transition meeting in Washington DC to meet face-to-face with his senior advisers the week prior to the inauguration. It was an honor to attend and represent the Arizona business community. During my presentation, I stressed the challenges small businesses face in accessing capital, the importance of affordability to a modified Affordable Care Act and encouraged the administration to engage with Arizona businesses to solicit feedback on trade negotiations as a border state.

President Trump's campaign speeches repeatedly spoke of repealing NAFTA (our trade agreement with Mexico and Canada). He has spoken of renegotiating our trade agreements individually with prominent countries to make America the priority. It is vital that Arizona businesses have a voice in this negotiation.  NAFTA creates jobs and taxes in every state – it’s not a total loss of business to Mexico – but a balanced partnership that has benefits to every state. Our chamber is collaborating with the Arizona District Export Council, the Trade Transportation Corridor Alliance, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other important voices at the table focused on international trade to amplify Arizona’s input.

The nation is closely watching and interpreting President Trump's every move. The ideological divisions within the Republican party with a Trump administration and the fact that several of his Cabinet appointees have expressed opinions that differ from Trump leave it a guessing game as to the direction of some important issues, such as the Affordable Care Act, immigration reform and investment in our nation’s infrastructure. The Tucson Hispanic Chamber will continue to be a voice for the Arizona business community at the local, state and federal level.

Lea Márquez Peterson is president/CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber.