The Star invited Arizona's three U.S. Senate candidates to answer that question, based on the following background:
Mexico is Arizona's top export partner, accounting for more than a third of our state's foreign trade. Yet the total value of our exports to Mexico has grown by 1 percent over the past four years while Texas has increased its total by 40 percent. What does Arizona need to do better and how will you expedite trade across our state's border?
This is the second of three Sundays of guest commentaries by the Senate candidates. You can read last week's question about jobs at azstarnet.com/opinion
There's no question that the North American Free Trade Agreement has been a good development for both Arizona and Mexico. Mexico is a valuable trading partner, and Arizona's economic health is greatly affected by our ability to export goods to Mexico. So what can Arizona do to increase those exports?
First and foremost, the federal government needs to reform the tax code and eliminate burdensome regulations that hamper economic activity. So long as the U.S. has the largest corporate tax rate in the world, manufacturers will relocate their factories and plants overseas and new businesses will choose to incorporate in other countries. It's tough for manufacturers to survive when they are literally being regulated out of business by the federal government. In order for manufacturers to thrive in the U.S., they need a pro-growth tax and regulatory environment.
In order for goods and labor to cross the border, our ports of entry need to be fully staffed. That's not the case right now. Agricultural regions of the state like Yuma and Nogales rely on labor from Mexico to harvest crops that are often exported to Mexico. Due to staffing shortages at our ports of entry, workers have a difficult time crossing the border in an efficient manner and Arizona growers can't meet their labor needs. The problem is so bad that I attached language to a recent Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spending bill that withheld a portion of the DHS secretary's personal budget until they provide Congress with a staffing model for our ports of entry.
There's always the urge by the federal government to solve a problem by spending money on it. One thing government should not do is offer incentives or bailouts to specific industries or companies. Whenever the federal government tries to pick winners or losers in the economy, it's always taxpayers who ultimately lose. Debacles like Solyndra are the result of the government trying to insert itself into the economy.
Mexico's economic condition will determine much of their ability to import our goods. The federal government must continue to engage the Mexican government and assist addressing the drug violence that plagues northern Mexico. Alleviating those problems can help create greater economic stability in Mexico.
I'm optimistic that consensus can be reached on these measures and Arizona's exporters will experience growth. Arizonans simply cannot afford the alternative.
Republican Jeff Flake has been a congressman since 2001, representing the 6th District, which includes much of the East Valley area in metro Phoenix.