Improving the state’s image among business interests in Mexico is at the top of the list for the new president of the Arizona-Mexico Commission.
“Having a perception of the state as inclusive, that it welcomes Mexicans and Mexican businesses with open arms, is one of the reasons I’m heading the commission,” said David Farca, president of Scottsdale-based ToH Design Studio.
“I’m taking this positive message to Mexico, that things are really different and that this administration has a different mentality,” he said.
Relations with Mexico, Arizona’s largest trading partner, became strained about 2010, when then-Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 into law, a measure considered one of the toughest immigration laws in the country.
Farca, who was born and raised in Mexico City, was appointed in late March by Gov. Doug Ducey.
At a recent reception sponsored by the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, supporters wasted no time praising the governor’s choice.
“It’s a very good sign that a person with his origins in Mexico was named as the president of the Arizona-Mexico Commission,” said Faustino Fernández, owner of Molino La Fama. “It’s a move in the right direction.”
Over its 56-year history the commission has had its highs and lows, said Roberto Rodríguez Hernández, Mexican consul general in Phoenix, but Farca’s appointment points to a renewed spirit of cooperation.
“We’re celebrating today that we’re going back to reality,” he said. “With all due respect to the previous governor, but that was a dark period for the relationship between Mexico and Arizona.”
While the charged rhetoric around immigration has quieted down since 2010, Arizona is part of the lawsuit against the federal government over the implementation of President Obama’s executive action on immigration.
The state also continues to fight driver’s licenses and in-state tuition for young immigrants who qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
“The relationship with Mexico is not all about immigration,” Farca said. “Yes, immigration’s important; yes, immigration is something that we have to tackle; but it’s not the only relationship.”
Hoping to foment that relationship, Ducey is set to visit Mexico City from June 17 to June 19.
Scheduled meetings include face time with the secretary of foreign affairs and representatives from most of the top firms in the country, Farca said.
“The fact that the state is having a completely different conversation with Mexico under this administration is very positive,” he said. “We have to take advantage of this opportunity and grow our business there.”
More than 40 percent of the state’s $21.1 billion in exports for 2014 went to Mexico, with the state increasing its exports there by $1.5 billion over 2013, according to the University of Arizona.
And while total trade between Arizona and Mexico stands at about $16 billion a year, Farca said it’s a fraction of what it could be.
“That represents about 7 percent of what Texas trades with Mexico. That to me, having my heart in Arizona, is unacceptable,” he said. “Even on a per capita basis, it’s lower than what Texas trades with Mexico. We need to face that.”
At about 44 million, the middle class in Mexico, with the same purchasing powers, likes and tastes as their American counterparts, is larger than the entire population of Canada, Farca said.
“It’s a great consumer market for the products and services that we produce here in the U.S.,” he said. “Business with Mexico is a tremendous potential for Arizona.”
When it comes to the southern part of the state, Farca said he shared the governor’s focus on the region and its advantage as a gateway to trade.
“As a commission we have already visited Nogales, we’ve been to Tucson and to Santa Cruz County. We’re going to Douglas and San Luis,” he said. “This is a region we need to grow economically to the benefit of the state as a whole.”