Business leaders want Congress to pay for improvements at border crossings

Border Report Tour

Border summit to focus on trade issues, pending U.S.-Mexico-Canada free trade agreement

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — The pending U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) will generate jobs, but to fully take advantage of it Congress needs to fund improvements to the country’s ports of entry, business leaders say.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks at a discussion at a George and Barbara Bush Distinguished Lecture, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019, at the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

The USMCA will figure prominently in discussions at the 2019 U.S.-Mexico Border Summit on Nov. 7 in El Paso, organizers say. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will be the keynote speaker at the summit scheduled at the El Paso Convention and Performing Arts Center. The full agenda can be found here.

The new North American free trade agreement is meant to replace 1994’s NAFTA, incorporating regulations over technology that did not exist back then and giving the U.S. more leverage over automotive production. Labor and environmental provisions, which have always proved a controversial subject in trade agreements, are also being negotiated.

“It will help create many more jobs in this region and I’m optimistic that it will be approved in a bipartisan manner. However, it’s important that we prepare for increased traffic. We need to be investing in infrastructure,” said Jon Barela, CEO of the Borderplex Alliance, summit organizers.

He said the group and many other trade organizations have been lobbying federal lawmakers to fund physical improvements at ports of entry from Brownsville, Texas, to San Diego, as well as the necessary personnel to process trucks and cargo. According to the Department of Transportation, some 6.3 million commercial trucks crossed the Southern border in 2018.

“Border security and facilitating legitimate trade aren’t incompatible concepts,” Barela said.

Border business leaders are hoping for a vote in Washington before Thanksgiving, ratifying the USMCA.

Manufacturing is big business along the border, although most of the production jobs are on the Mexican side. In the El Paso-Juarez region, manufacturing accounts for more than 300,000 direct jobs, according to local business associations.

“We very much encourage participation of the public and the business community. The Border Summit not only focuses on policy issues that are currently being discussed in Washington and Mexico City, but we also focus on what ideas and solutions can we take and actually implement in the upcoming year,” Barela said.

Summit organizers are also encouraging participation in a binational 10k race from Downtown El Paso to Juarez on Nov. 16, which is sponsored by the El Paso Community Foundation.

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