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Joint venture boosts NM ties to Mexico

Mexican Consul Mauricio Ibarra, left, makes a point to Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry at Wednesday's announcement of the opening of the New Mexico Trade and Higher Education Center of Mexico City. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)
Mexican Consul Mauricio Ibarra, left, makes a point to Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry at Wednesday's announcement of the opening of the New Mexico Trade and Higher Education Center of Mexico City. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)
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Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal

A new trade and education office – New Mexico through and through – will open next week in the heart of Mexico City, a development expected to quickly become a win-win situation for all involved.

The city of Albuquerque, University of New Mexico and the state of New Mexico announced the opening of the New Mexico Trade and Higher Education Center of Mexico City on Wednesday at the Mexican Consulate in Albuquerque. The center is expected to boost commerce and employment, increase the number of international students and foster scientific research.

The gathering was hosted by Mexican Consul Mauricio Ibarra, who welcomed the development with open arms. The announcement was made by Mayor Richard Berry, New Mexico Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela and Mary Anne Saunders, director of UNM’s Global Initiatives office.

Berry described the office, which will be located in Mexico City’s World Trade Center, as an “unprecedented partnership between the city, state and university,” adding that is “unique to all other U.S. representative offices currently in operation in Mexico.”

Calling it a “significant investment in our relationship with Mexico,” Berry said it has “overwhelming support” from officials on both sides of the border.

He cited figures that show Mexico is the state’s largest export market with more than $800 million in exports in 2013, more than double the $385 million in exports five years earlier. The increase in exports goes hand in hand with recent growth in the New Mexico border region, Berry said, particularly at the Santa Teresa port of entry where Union Pacific Railroad opened a $400 million state-of-the-art intermodal facility in April.

“New Mexico has doubled its exports to Mexico over the last four years,” said Secretary Barela. The new center will help that growth to continue, he said. “It complements the work taking place at the New Mexico-Chihuahua border to build a world-class port for trade and industry, and position New Mexico as a leader in international trade.”

Despite the seemingly phenomenal growth of the past five years, the officials noted that New Mexico lags far behind economic development overtures Texas, Arizona and Colorado have made to Mexico.

UNM’s Saunders predicted the office will be a boon in recruiting students and promoting research. She noted that UNM has more than 40 agreements, or partnerships, with Mexican schools.

“While we currently have many research and educational programs with Mexican universities, we know that much more collaboration is possible,” she said. “We believe that this effort will create stronger interactions at all levels, and UNM looks forward to enhancing our partnerships with our Mexican colleagues, in order to provide more research and educational opportunities to our students and theirs.”

The official goal is to increase the number of Mexican students studying in the United States from the current 14,000 to 100,000 by 2018, she said. At the same time, it is hoped the number of Americans studying in Mexico will soar from the “embarrassingly low” 4,000 up to 50,000.

Berry and UNM President Robert Frank will lead an official delegation to Mexico City on Tuesday to meet with Mexican officials and inaugurate the office. Representatives of New Mexico’s business community will join the official delegation.

The center will be staffed by two experts in the fields of international business development and higher education:

⋄  Margo Galvan, a Mexico City native with years of experience helping foreign companies enter the Mexican market, will work with New Mexico businesses interested in finding customers, partners or distributors throughout Mexico. Galvan is also expected to play an important role in positioning the state as a strategic location for Mexican foreign direct investment.

⋄  Angelica Careaga will focus on building partnerships between UNM and Mexican higher education institutions – recruiting Mexican undergraduate and graduate students to UNM’s degree programs, and developing study abroad experiences for UNM students in Mexico. Careaga will leverage UNM’s long history in working with Mexican institutions.

“The new office will be a game-changer for the bilateral relationship between Mexico and New Mexico, as it aims to strengthen key areas such as trade and education,” Ibarra said. “We are confident it will also have positive outcomes in terms of cultural and tourism promotion.”

The office will “strengthen the bonds that already tie New Mexico with Mexico,” he said.

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