AUSTIN, TEXAS – State Rep. Terry Canales has explained why he is introducing a House Concurrent Resolution celebrating international trade on March 30, Rio Grande International Trade Day at the state Capitol.
The Edinburg legislator says he is not sure enough legislators understand the significance trade with Mexico has on the Texas economy. He said he will work to get legislators from across the state to sign on as a co-sponsor of his Resolution.
“Unfortunately, the way South Texas has been painted is a mis-characterization of who we are. We have done our best to try to educate the Legislature that South Texas is not a war zone, it is a trade zone. And that international trade is the driving economic force of the region,” Canales said.
“If you look at the statistics, if you had guacamole on Super Bowl Sunday, 85 percent comes across the Pharr International Bridge. Investing in our ports of entry, investing in who we are as a trade zone is absolutely crucial to the success of Texas. I have said it many times before, the Rio Grande Valley is a key economic engine for Texas. As goes the Rio Grande Valley, so goes the state of Texas.”
Click here to read the international trade resolution state Rep. Terry Canales is introducing on the House floor on March, 30, 2017.
Rio Grande International Trade Day in Austin is March 30. On that day, a delegation of VIPs from the world of international trade will be recognized on the floor of the House and the floor of the Senate. State Sens. Eddie Lucio, Jr., of Brownsville, and Juan Hinojosa of McAllen will recognize the VIPs on the Senate floor.
Among the sponsors of the Rio Grande International Trade Day are Pharr International Bridge, Donna International Bridge, Progreso International Bridge, and El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The event has been convened by the Lower Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the RGV Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Camara de Comercio Internacional, otherwise known as CAMCOIN.
“If you look at the international bridge in Pharr, there is no connector, we do not connect to anything. You have literally got to drive through stop lights in Pharr. That is an indicator that we as a state are not focusing our resources where we should be,” Canales said.
“Rather than build a wall, we should connect our ports of entry, and provide more inspectors at those bridges. If you look at satellite photos you see the trucks backed up so far into Mexico. Why? Because we do not have the inspection facilities or manpower we need. We are missing out on millions, if not billions, of dollars in trade. We are not maximizing our trade potential.”
Canales added: “Bringing all this information about international trade to the state Capitol and the Legislature – on Rio Grande International Trade Day, March 30 – and letting legislators know we are falling short of the goal is really pertinent to the future of Texas.”
Agustin ‘Gus’ Garcia, executive director of Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, pointed out that the Rio Grande Valley’s economy was not hit as hard as other parts of the nation during the 2008-2009 recession. Garcia puts this down to trade with Mexico and Mexican shoppers and tourists continuing to visit the region.
“We have looked at this extensively and we have been able to identify over the last ten years, despite the Peso devaluation, in spite of the market and the economy, that the growth of the Rio Grande Valley was not been impacted by those anomalies that took place in the economy. We have been able to consistently grow,” Garcia said.
“I think the reason why we consistently grow, not only in population but in retail sales taxes and permits and construction, commercial and residential, is because of our proximity to the border. The sustained growth we have experienced over the last 15 or 20 years is because we are on the international border. Yes, we have grown in population, but when you have that much trade crossing the international border, you are going to have growth.”
Mike Blum, partner and managing broker of NAI Rio Grande Valley, was involved in the discussions that led to the formation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1993. He just did not know it at the time.
“I was involved with NAFTA before the word got coined. I was in the room with State Department officials in 1989. I was representing First City Bank. I got invited to a workshop in The Woodlands to talk about this thing called an American free trade agreement. We did not know what it was going to be called. I spent two days there not knowing where I was and who I was with. Turned out I was with the architects of NAFTA. So, yes, I have been messing with this for a long time,” Blum said.
Blum urges the Trump administration to tread carefully as it attempts to renegotiate NAFTA.
“Trade is crucial to Texas and anything the federal government does to mess with NAFTA has consequences that are unknowable until you do it. Don Rumsfeld, when he was secretary of defense, used to talk about the knowable, the unknowable, and the unknowable unknowable. Well, we are in the unknowable unknoawble. You can’t mess with NAFTA without significant economic impacts.”
Asked about NAFTA’s impact on the Rio Grande Valley, Blum said:
“From Brownsville to Roma and Rio Grande City, we are 7th in the nation for cross-border trade. Forty-one billion dollars of the total trade crosses these bridges. That employs tens of thousands of people on both sides of the border, and in Chicago and Minnesota and every place else in northeast America. You shut down an automobile assembly operation in Monterrey and the BMW plant, and Toyota plant and the other plants will all be affected. There are repercussions. Mexico buys corn from Iowa. You mess with NAFTA, Mexico will buy its corn from Brazil. Who, then, will the Iowa farmers sell their corn to?” Blum said.
“Whatever the problems with NAFTA are, fix them, but don’t mess with it. Don’t undo what has happened. There are thousands and thousands of jobs at stake. Six million in the U.S., directly tied to NAFTA.”
For more information, including sponsorship opportunities about Rio Grande International Trade Day in Austin, contact any of these three chamber of commerce leaders:
Cynthia Sakulenzki: 956-451-5255
Tony Gutierrez: 956-536-1448
Carlos Marin: 956-776-5538
Editor’s Note: The above story is one of two stories about state Rep. Terry Canales’ legislative agenda. The second story will be published in Thursday’s edition.