Beckham: There’s a great story on the US-Mexico border and we need to share it with everybody

NADBank’s deputy managing director gave remarks on day two of the 2023 NADBank Summit.

We have another great day ahead of us. But, before we look ahead, I believe it’s worth reviewing why the border region is important. Yesterday’s panels and discussions provided interesting context and updates on the forces at play here and the opportunities and challenges that they are creating. 

A few items that made an impact on me… two comments in different panels. Both Commissioner Resendez and Giner talked about… and David Schneider of Veolia talked about the need think differently about water, things like storage, moving it, quality, having it where it needs to be, and when it’s needed. 

And then, separately, Tania Ortiz and Jim Beach talked about storing energy and transmitting energy. So I think, to me, it created in a intersecting idea that we need to think about, not just the energy or not just the water but where it is and how it’s got to get to where we want it. That’s a degree of complexity that I’m still thinking and working through. And I invite you all to think as well. 

Because that leads me to the second point… and a couple other speakers mentioned it, that this is not a slam dunk, taking advantage of near-shoring. There are challenges even risks to doing so. They is important policy, regulatory and stakeholder work that needs to be done. But, there’s also wide recognition that this is building on success. The border region has succeeded. 

And that’s why I want to share a few thoughts about why I think it’s important (to say) that the border region will always be important for the United States and Mexico’s relationship. Because this is where it all comes together. The border is where the rubber hits the road. The nexus of the binational relationship. It’s also a shared region, where the communities of both nations meet each other every day. 

Since the founding of NADBank in ’94, and in parallel with the ratification of NAFTA and the USMCA, the US and Mexico border region has enjoyed an economic, social and cultural dynamism. US Mexico annual trade increased from $173 billion in ’94 to over $660 billion at the end of 2021. And it’s generating thousands of good jobs. 

In the first six months… and a couple of other folks mentioned this yesterday…of 2023, trade between our countries surpassed the United States’ trade with China. This success has benefited the overall US and Mexico relationship and proven that North America as a continent can be an integrated market. 

Most importantly for us who live and work here, the economic vitality provides the foundation for improving the well-being of our communities. Today’s enthusiasm for the North American supply chains is a new chapter in a decade’s long story. The investments required can be a platform for providing opportunities to citizens in all three countries. For long term success requires keener appreciation, commitment and investment in the environmental sustainability, especially along the US Mexico border region. By leveraging current enthusiasm for investing in new supply chains, sustainable investment can accelerate and preserve the long term prospects of the border region and North American Integration. 

Three intersecting opportunity opportunities I’d like to share with you: it’s a greener economy, water and energy. All economic integration is a complex undertaking at NADBank.There are three themes. I want to expand on these and share them because I think they lay a good foundation for the integration and shared prosperity of the border region and more broadly North America .

Just building more factories within the region’s arid and semi-arid climate is a recipe for an unsustainable future. However, not investing in an economy that produces good jobs for local communities ignores the vitality of the region and places more stress on the binational relationship and the communities that inhabit here. 

Therefore, governments and institutions and stakeholders like ourselves need to lead and invest in resilient and green infrastructure. We should promote cleaner transportation, lower water and energy use and improve planning of urban areas. These public sector initiatives should engage and support a dynamic private sector that creates well paying jobs. For their part, private enterprises should invest in facilities that meet LEED standards. They should also utilize technologies and processes that do not use as many resources. Lastly, with the right regulatory framework, recycling can create commercial opportunities for a more circular greener economy. 

Regardless of how efficient or resourceful our new investment might be, there’s no escaping the natural arid conditions and the current drought. Therefore, a greener economy needs to be built upon water infrastructure, and management that prioritizes conservation, effective sanitation and reuse and diversification of water resources. 

Since ’95, the region has successfully invested in water infrastructure and, at NADBank alone, we’ve invested in over 200 projects for a total of almost one and a half billion dollars. This has resulted in almost 100 percent of the border region having water service coverage. 

But, preserving these gains means maintaining infrastructure and adapting it to accommodating population growth. That in turn requires ongoing investment. Money on its own is not sufficient. Water sustainability will require engagement between and among governments at all levels, local, community and private enterprises. 

Infrastructure is just the start. To meet water needs over time it also requires reinforcing the institutional and human capacity of local water authorities. 

There’s no denying that water is life. However, clean, reliable water requires energy. It is the single biggest cost to cleaning and delivering water to any community. 

Also, energy is essential to any economy. It supports production, mobility, education, health care, things we all know. The source of the energy is critical for long-term sustainability. 

Here, the border region has an important advantage. It is home to an abundance of resources that support wind and solar power. Already there has been substantial investment. Between 2010 and 2019, Mexico invested $24 billion in clean energy, and the United States about $387 billion. 

Continuing investment in renewable energy generation, storage, and transmission is essential to powering the region’s water needs and greener economy. None of this will be quickly achieved but the border region faces this opportunity having made great progress over the last 25 years. 

As importantly, we’ve also learned a few lessons that can help us now. First, we need to adapt and change. And at NADBank we remain committed to providing infrastructure for core water and sanitation infrastructure. But we’ve also adopted to NADBank 2.0 to comprehensively invest in infrastructure and a greener economy. We intend to do this by providing technical assistance for project development and institutional capacity, granting long-term financing for new investments and know how and expertise to ensure execution, transparency and long term success. Here at NADBank, we’re more than money. 

The second lesson is the importance of partnerships. This is hard work friends, and it cannot be done alone. The success of the region and the Bank is due to working in collaboration with governments, investors and communities committed to sustainable economic growth across the entire border. For our part, NADBank, we will continue working with existing partners and forge new ones. 

Here’s the last point that made an impact on me yesterday. It was when Ambassador Moctezuma described borders as places where we find and define new horizons. I thought that was an excellent way to think about where the partnerships can take place. We need to define that together. And this summit is an example of our efforts to establish and cultivate those relationships to define the new horizon. 

We want to work with like-minded individuals, organizations, communities and companies to build effective partnerships to exchange ideas, best practices, and lessons learned that can lead to the continued sustainable development of our shared region. 

We are two countries but one region with a common objective of fostering and executing a binational environmental infrastructure investment agenda. Doing so means that our 3,000 kilometer long border and home to over 26 million people and where the US and Mexico come together every day to work and collaborate will have the capacity to become a linchpin for North American Integration. 

Our event has been a success because of you here sharing your experiences and learning from one another and what is working in your country, your region or your community. You’re a key ingredient to making your community and shared border a better place to live and work for our generations and generations to come. 

I invite you after this summit to all carry our shared responsibility. To take what we’ve learned here, working collaboratively, and apply it to our own community and share it with those across Mexico and the United States. There’s a great story here, and we need to share it with everybody. Thanks for your attention and look forward to another great day.

Editor’s Note: The above commentary was provided by John Beckham, deputy managing director of the North American Development Bank, on day two of the 2023 NADBank Summit. In his remarks, Beckham referenced the Hon. Esteban Moctezuma, Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, Adriana Resendez, Mexico’s commissioner for the International Boundary & Water Commission, Maria Elena Giner, the United States commissioner for the International Boundary & Water Commission, David Schneider, vice president of development and marketing for Veolia North America, Tania Ortíz Mena, group president for clean power and energy networks at SEMPRA Infrastructure, and James Beach, co-CEO of EnerSmart Storage, LLC. Beckham can be reached by email via:

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above commentary shows John Beckham at the 2023 NADBank Summit. Photo courtesy of NADBank.

We are interested about hearing news in our community! Let us know what's happening!

Get in touch and share a story!


This site uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy.

Scroll to Top