BROWNSVILLE, RGV – The new chairperson of the Border Trade Alliance says she is looking forward to the group playing a major role in discussions over a modernized North American Free Trade Agreement.

Paola Avila, vice president of international business affairs for the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, has just been elected chair of the BTA. Formed in 1986, BTA is a grassroots, non-profit organization that provides a forum for discussion and advocacy on issues pertaining to the environment, border development, quality of life and trade in the Americas.

Paola Avila, vice president of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, and newly elected Chair of the Border Trade Alliance. (Photo: San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce)

“NAFTA is too valuable to the economies of all three countries to risk its collapse,” Avila said. “The BTA was a leading voice for NAFTA’s initial adoption nearly 25 years ago, and we remain a staunch advocate for the agreement today. While we believe there is certainly a need to modernize NAFTA, abandoning it would inflict tremendous damage on our economies and harm the approximately 14 million men and women in the United States whose jobs depend on trade with Canada and Mexico.”

Rio Grande Valley residents may remember Avila from the time she participated in an absorbing panel discussion about international trade with United Brownsville’s Mike Gonzalez that was streamed live from the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., a few years back. At the event she spoke about the growth of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, how it was truly bi-national, and how it took dozens of members to Washington, D.C., and Mexico City every year.

“I am honored to assume the chairmanship of the Border Trade Alliance, one of the nation’s most respected trade advocacy groups,” Avila said. “I look forward to collaborating with my fellow board members from San Diego, California, to Brownsville, Texas and along the northern border to continue BTA’s work of promoting policies that have encouraged efficient and secure trade in North America.”

BTA President Britton Clarke said Avila is a respected leader throughout the U.S.-Mexico border region. He said she brings valuable public and private sector experience to the chairmanship post.

“The BTA is fortunate to have Paola’s leadership during this critical time for free and open cross border trade. She will be a great champion for the BTA and play an important role in the debate over a modernized NAFTA while expanding the BTA’s influence on Capitol Hill and beyond,” Clarke said.

Clarke added that Avila will focus on the advocacy of domestic and international public policies that enhance economic prosperity through trade, commerce, and robust international relationships.

Avila takes the helm of the Board of Directors from Russ Jones, the chairman of RL Jones Customhouse Brokers, which maintains operations in several markets along the US-Mexico border. Jones served as chairman for the past two years.

“I appreciate the leadership Russ has provided to our organization,” Avila said. “There has been no more forceful advocate for policies that enhance the North American cross-border trade environment. On behalf of the entire BTA board, I thank Russ for his service to the BTA.”

The BTA is a network of public and private sector representatives from the United States, Mexico and Canada. Its core values include a commitment to improving the quality of life of border communities through trade and commerce.