PHARR, RGV – Members of the Mid Valley Customs Brokers Association invited U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez and Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez to their monthly meeting at Pappadeaux in Pharr.

They wanted to hear where the two elected officials stood on issues such as the new United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement, infrastructure investment at international bridges, and border security.

“It is an honor and a privilege to have you here today and we’re pleased to know we have two champions for trade that care about the international business community and understands the importance of international trade in a global economy,” said licensed customs broker Crispin N. Flores, president of C&J Logistical Services, Inc., and president of MVCBA.

“We were delighted to hear that both Congressman Gonzalez and Mayor Hernandez were free-traders,” said licensed customs brook Adrian Gonzalez, branch manager at Daniel B. Hastings. “They both want to defend the trading relationships we have with Mexico. They support USMCA and they support our association. They are not brokers but they are both very knowledgeable about what we do and some of the technical issues that affect us.”

Gonzalez is vice president of MVCBA and head of the maquiladora sector within the group. In his remarks, he laid out the position of the association when it comes to free trade and USMCA.

“We believe in international trade and its benefits for all Americans. Therefore, we stand against any measure that hinders fair international trade as it is disruptive and damaging to our strengths as a country,” Gonzalez said.

“We support measures against countries that engage in unfair trade practices, specifically China. However, we ask for a more targeted approach. We believe that duties across the board are unfair as they do not fully address the issue and creates incentives for further cheating.”

Gonzalez urged his namesake to vote “yes” on the ratification of USMCA. “What importers mostly fear, is the uncertainty that is created by further debate. We ask that you defend the importance of Canada and Mexico as trading partners of the United States.”

Interviewed by the Rio Grande Guardian and RGV Public Radio 88 FM, Gonzalez said another top concern is border security.

“We are asking the federal government to collaborate with the Mexican government to improve security across our border. It saddens us to see investment slow down and some companies preferring other Mexican states due to the fear and uncertainty that the narco-violence creates in Reynosa and other regions in Mexico,” Gonzalez said.

“As the congressman pointed out, it affects our economic prosperity. It affects trade greatly. Congressman Gonzalez asked us to imagine where we would be as a region if we did not have the border security problems. There would be a lot more prosperity and economic activity in our region.”

Another concern for customs brokers is any change in trade policy the new president of Mexico might introduce. 

“We have not seen anything bad yet from Andrés Manuel López Obrador. We are waiting to see what approach he takes to international trade. We would hope he supports exports from Mexico. We hope he does not make it harder to import goods, raw materials, into Mexico.”

That said, Gonzalez noted that industry always adapts to any changes in policy from Washington, D.C., and Mexico City.

Licensed customs broker Antonio Rivera is general manager at Parker & Company of Brownsville. He is also treasurer of MVCBA. In his remarks, Rivera, thanked the congressman and mayor for their attendance at the meeting. He also thanked the City of Pharr and Pharr International Bridge Board for their support.

“Working as trade experts we provide expertise and assistance to the manufacturers, importers, farms, distributers, and other end users that depend on us to provide the best advise and service to grow their business and in turn grow our local, state and national economy,” Rivera said.

Rivera said 2018 was an exciting year for customs brokers, particularly because of USMCA.

“Navigating other countries retaliatory actions towards our country’s actions have made this year very interesting to say the least. But it also definitely exposed our necessity to be ready to evolve with changing times, whether we agree with it or not,” Rivera said.

“But we don’t need to evolve alone. Other ports have learned that one united voice is louder and cannot be ignored and have really had a major effect, up to a national level. Our port is not a small player in this nations trade footprint.”

Great year for fresh produce

Hidalgo-based licensed customs broker Phillip Garcia is vice president for the produce sector of MVCBA. He said 2018 was “a great year” for produce imports through the Pharr Bridge.

Since 2014 the port of Pharr has overtaken Nogales in importations of fresh produce, to a value of 3.5 billion dollars. As of 2017 the Pharr port of entry imported 60 percent of all total produce shipments coming through Texas which were approximately 158,0000 trucks,” Garcia said.

“A lot of factors have made that possible including the Durango highway built a few years ago allows trucks coming from the west of Mexico to arrive in Pharr in 15 to 20 hours hours.”

Garcia praised the City of Pharr for its continued expansion of the Pharr port of entry and for its promotion of the bridge in Mexico.

“Another important factor that encourages importations though Pharr is that produce shipped from the Rio Grande Valley can arrive in any part of the United States in two to three days and reach Canada in three to four days,” Garcia said.

“All these advantages that our region brings to the table provides us with continued economic prosperity. We look forward to 2019 and beyond for continued success and growth for the Rio Grande Valley and keeping our leadership position in importation of fresh produce from Mexico.”