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Panel discusses trade war’s effects on New Mexico

Patrick Schaefer, left, of the Hunt Institute for Global Competitiveness at the University of Texas at El Paso, and Manuel Montoya, a UNM professor, speak at an event sponsored by the Santa Fe Council on International Relations on Friday. (Eddie Moore/Journal)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – New Mexico – a critical crossroads for global trade – has much at stake as tariffs, Brexit and other political conflicts shape the world economy, a panel of experts said Friday.

In a luncheon briefing held by the Santa Fe Council on International Relations, the panelists highlighted New Mexico’s role – often out of sight for many residents – as an international trade route both for overseas goods that arrive at a California port and then move eastward, and for goods transported north from Mexico.

Panelists said the state will feel the effects of any reduction in global trade – at a time when President Donald Trump has threatened to impose tariffs on products from Mexico. And there are, of course, other potential barriers to free trade around the globe, such as Britain’s planned withdrawal from the European Union.

“The world has never been more connected and more divided at the same time, and those tensions are increasing every day,” Patrick Schaefer of the Hunt Institute for Global Competitiveness said during the lunchtime briefing in Santa Fe.

New Mexico, he said, is not just a crossroads of commerce, but also an example of the way global trade involves more than just the movement of goods and services. People move, too, seeking jobs and demand for their labor.

The political debate over free trade is now linked directly with arguments over immigration. Trump, for example, has threatened to impose tariffs on goods from Mexico, accusing the country of failing to do enough to stop the flow of migrants across the U.S. border.

The potential tariffs – a kind of tax – could have raised prices for U.S. consumers buying tequila, avocados or other products from Mexico. Trump said late Friday that he had suspended plans for the tariffs after reaching agreement with Mexico.

But the political debate, panelists said, is an example of the way trade is an expression of ideas, not just the movement of goods.

“It’s not that we hate tequila. We love it,” said Manuel Montoya, a professor of international management at the University of New Mexico. “But the main thing is that we feel threatened when it represents the idea that the world is changing around us and we feel nostalgic for some sort of past.”

Montoya and Schaefer took questions and spoke for well over an hour at the event by the Santa Fe Council on International Relations, a nonprofit group that welcomes international visitors and promotes education on global issues.

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