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NM border business leaders optimistic about new trade pact

Cargo enters Mexico through the Santa Teresa Port of Entry after leaving New Mexico in 2014. The U.S. has renegotiated its trade pact with Mexico and Canada. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Border business leaders in New Mexico are optimistic after the U.S. successfully renegotiated a trade pact that includes both Mexico and Canada.

“It’s a collective sigh of relief. Finally, this is over,” said Jerry Pacheco CEO of the Santa Teresa-based Border Industrial Association.

“We can all go back to focusing 100 percent on our businesses and creating jobs,” said Pacheco.

He was in meetings with partners in Mexico working on a cross-border, mixed-use development project as President Trump held a news conference in the Rose Garden calling the deal “truly historic.”

“Throughout the campaign, I promised to renegotiate NAFTA and today we have kept that promise,” said Trump. “It will transform North America back into a manufacturing powerhouse.”

President Trump had threatened to cut Canada out of the deal after reaching an agreement with Mexico at the end of August. On Sunday, as a midnight deadline for wrapping up negotiations with Canada loomed, all three countries signed the trilateral agreement.

“We got the right deal. We got a win-win-win for all three countries,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Canada agreed to give U.S. farmers greater access to the country’s dairy market. The U.S. agreed to keep the dispute resolution process that could be used by Canada or Mexico if Trump moves forward with plans to impose tariffs on imported vehicles and auto parts.

“The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement is positive news for the Borderplex region,” said John Barela, CEO of the Borderplex Alliance.

“I’m optimistic the accord will help bolster the Borderplex region’s position as the fourth-largest manufacturing hub in North America …,” said Barela in a statement released by the Borderplex Alliance, which promotes economic development and trade in the region that includes Doña Ana County in New Mexico, El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.

“As a community built on free trade and globalization, we have a vital stake in ensuring North America remains economically competitive and open to trade,” Barela said.

The region depends heavily on trade and supply chains that stretch across the border. “So much of our supply chain is the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. We actually have a Canadian company in the park,” said Pacheco referring to the Santa Teresa Industrial park.

Goods coming through the Santa Teresa border crossing now total more than $22 billion and account for more than half of all global trade for New Mexico, according to the Department of Commerce. The Santa Teresa border crossing ranks fifth for exports according to U.S. Census Bureau figures.

The new trade deal strengthens North American manufacturers’ ability to compete against other global trading blocks.

President Trump renamed the new trade deal the “USMCA,” replacing NAFTA, which the president called “the worse trade deal ever made.” Trump had said the agreement cost U.S. jobs as companies moved to Mexico to take advantage of low wages.

The new deal requires regional content of 75 percent for autos, and that 40 percent to 45 percent of vehicles be produced in plants paying at least $16 per hour. The new trade pact also has stronger protections for labor rights, the environment and intellectual property. All three countries agreed to a review of the agreement every six years.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., in a statement released by his office was critical of the Trump administration’s negotiating strategy, saying the “chaotic approach to NAFTA and often hostile rhetoric toward Mexico have cast a cloud over New Mexico’s economic progress.”

Congress has to ratify the trade agreement for it to take effect and that could stretch into 2019.

“Any significant change to NAFTA must be approved by Congress, and I will be reviewing this proposed agreement to determine whether it will protect New Mexico’s vital trade relationship with Mexico and improve much-needed protections for workers and the environment,” Udall said.

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