RIO GRANDE CITY, RGV – Starr-Camargo Bridge Company President and CEO Sam Vale says this week’s gathering in Mexico City by the Border Trade Alliance members was a major success.

Vale, a past chairman of the BTA, said industry leaders and government officials convened to design the framework for a study to assess the needs of the U.S. and Mexico governments as each country prepares for increased trade flows.

“The bi-national resource allocation conference was a dramatic success attracting 55 participants from the U.S., Mexico, Canada and the four U.S. southwest Border States,” Vale told the Rio Grande Guardian.

Sam Vale
Sam Vale

“Both the U.S. and Mexican governments could really use future projections of business growth. At present they only have access to historical border crossing and trade flow patterns. It takes years to secure funding for resources both human and infrastructure and a relatively accurate transparent projection analysis would be a very useful tool for government and the private sector.”

The event was hosted by BTA Mexico (BTA Alianza del Comercio Fronterizo A.C.) in partnership with BTA USA (Border Trade Alliance). The event was attended by U.S. Reps Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from Laredo, and Will Hurd, a Republican from San Antonio, as well as representatives of Aduanas, Mexico’s customs agency, the U.S. Department of State, the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute and business leaders involved in cross-border trade.

The chairman of BTA Mexico is Rigoberto Villarreal, superintendent of bridges for the City of McAllen. “The message of today’s important discussion was that we can’t wait for complete border gridlock before we direct badly needed resources to our land border ports of entry,” Villarreal said “Investment in Mexico is growing, which means trade volumes between the U.S. and Mexico will grow, too. We need to be ready, but our ports are already overburdened.”

Border Trade Alliance President Noe Garcia, III, said much of the discussion centered on agency staffing levels and aging infrastructure at land ports of entry. Garcia said these two issues contribute greatly to crossing delays along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Customs and Border Protection in the U.S. and Aduanas in Mexico are doing the best they can to process trade,” Garcia said. “But unless real budgetary resources in both governments are devoted to new resources and to updating aging infrastructure, we will continue to face these same challenges and they will only worsen.”

BTA Chairman Jesse Hereford said participants also lamented outdated processes and stressed the need to look to technology and modernized practices to handle growing trade flows.

“Both industry and government have known for years that inspecting cargo as far away from the port of entry is preferable to clogging the inspection lanes with truckload after truckload. More human resources and new ports won’t meet our challenges if we continue to rely on old ways of thinking,” Hereford said.

Hereford said that over the course of the next year the BTA hopes to produce a report that can be shared with government decision-makers and industries in the U.S. and Mexico that will “project future trade flows and allow governments to anticipate where the greatest needs will be so that further bottlenecks can be averted.”

Garcia added: “If we wait until the border is at a standstill, it’s too late. The time to prepare is now.”

Vale agreed. He said the roundtable discussion was highly productive with 55 participants from the public and private sector providing input.

“The mission was to get feedback on themes developed by BTA Mexico and BTA USA with the Administración General De Aduanas, which is part of the Servicio de Administración Tributaria (SAT), or Mexican Treasury. We want to develop a process for a transparent allocation of resources study to project future cross-border trade growth between the U.S. and Mexico the next three to five years and beyond.”

Vale said the key questions that need to be addressed in the study are: Which industries are growing and where? What resources are needed for border POE to accommodate projected increases in traffic? Which highway (land) trade corridors will see growth and from which industries? Which sea, rail and air ports require new resources to support the projected growth? And what infrastructure improvements are needed from points of origin in Mexico and the USA to accommodate increased trade flow?

The industrial sectors to be studied, Vale said, include: Automotive, Energy, including petroleum and natural gas, Electronic, Agriculture, Aerospace, and other Manufacturing. The desired outcomes, Vale said, are to establish a transparent process for identifying geographic regions and industries poised for growth. A successful study should aid federal agencies and industries in both countries in determining how best future resources should be allocated to process trade flows.

Participants at the BTA conference included:

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar
U.S. Rep. Will Hurd
Chris Wilson, Wilson Center Mexico Institute, Washington, D.C.
Alberto Morales, Administrador Area de Equipamiento e Infraestructura Aduyanbera
Isabel Clavijo, Ajdministradora Central de Asuntos Aduaneros Internacionales
Fanny Euran, Vicepresidenta de Comision de Aduanas, Confederacion de Camaras Industriales
Veronica Bravo, Director North America, Mexican Business Council for Foreign Trade
Patricia Pacheco, Direccion Tecnica, Consejo Empresarial Mexicano Comercio Exterior
William Duncan, Charge d’Affaires, U.S. Embassy, Mexico
Jim Hamilton, Economies and Border Affairs Officer, U.S. Embassy, Mexico
Rigo Villarreal, Superintendent Bridges McAllen, BTA Mexico President
Jesse Hereford, Director Government Relations, S&B Infrastructure, BTA USA Chair
Sam Vale, President, Starr Camargo Bridge
Richard Cortez, Commissioner, McAllen
Noe Garcia, BTA President
Bret Erickson, President, Texas International Produce Association
Luis Bazan, interim director, Pharr International Bridge
Juan Carlos Villa, Latin American Manager for the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M
Kathy Neal, Global Trade Director, Regal Beloit Corporation (which has plants in Reynosa)
Roger McCray, Director Global Customs, DELPHI (which has plants in Reynosa)
Aquiles Garza, President, BEBO Distributing
Martin Anzalda, Presidente de Grupo San Juan Reynosa
Joaquin Spamer, Presidente de CI Logistics Group, Mission
Stan Korsec, Director Security, Government Relation Canadian Transit Company (Ambassador Bridge Windsor-Detroit)
And Representatives from New Mexico, Arizona and California.

Editor’s Note: The main picture accompanying this story was taken at the Border Trade Alliance meeting in Mexico City. Pictured from left to right are U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, BTA Mexico Chairman Rigoberto Villarreal, BTA Chairman Jesse Hereford and U.S. Rep. Will Hurd.