With 95 percent of the world’s consumers living beyond America’s borders — accounting for 80 percent of the world’s purchasing power — establishing stronger trade ties is an important tool to help our economy grow.

U.S. Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas.
U.S. Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas.

Through trade and immigration, the United States and our neighbors have become increasingly interconnected. Now, when our neighbors suffer we suffer. But the reverse is also true. The better our trading partners do, the better we do. I was reminded of that recently, when I had the opportunity to visit Mexico and Central America as part of a Congressional delegation trip that focused in part on strengthening the United States’ trade ties to the region.

Here in Texas, we know that well. Texas businesses exported nearly $280 billion in goods in 2013 — roughly one-fifth of all American exports. More than $100 billion of that trade goes to Mexico.

And while those numbers look impressive in the accounting ledger, the real impact is felt at the kitchen tables of the hundreds of thousands of workers in Texas whose jobs are directly tied to cross-border trade. Families and businesses on both sides of the Texas-Mexico border are stronger because of our nations’ trade agreements.

When I was in Mexico, I met with a group of Mexican and American energy executives who told me about the opening up of the Mexican energy sector by the administration of Mexican President Enrique Peña-Nieto.

Mexico’s critical reforms in the energy sector come as great news and have tremendous potential to further expand cross-border trade and investment, but its ultimate success will depend on the quality and extent of implementation by the government. Another key to success in expanding U.S.-Mexico trade is border infrastructure.

Americans in general — and Texans in particular — benefit when trade moves efficiently through our border crossings. But, unfortunately, our land ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexican border have not kept pace with the rapid growth in trade. These ports of entry are suffering from both inadequate infrastructure and inadequate staffing.

That’s why earlier this month I joined with Democratic Representatives Beto O’Rourke of El Paso and Henry Cuellar of Laredo to introduce a pair of bipartisan bills ensuring Texas’ ports of entry will have the technology and resources necessary to reduce wait times, streamline legitimate trade and travel and boost security along our shared border.

Taken together, these bills would lead to more trade, more jobs and more opportunity for people on both sides of our border. Stronger ties with Mexico won’t just help trade — it also can improve security throughout the entire region. As our economic partnerships continue to grow, our two governments must work together to achieve a genuine, sustainable solution to the security issue that benefits the people of both nations.

Building strong trade ties that are mutually beneficial doesn’t happen overnight or by accident. It takes a commitment from business and political leaders on both sides of the border to create an environment that fosters and promotes trade and security.

An international bridge connecting Laredo, Texas and Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. (Photo courtesy of Bob Daemmrich)
An international bridge connecting Laredo, Texas and Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. (Photo courtesy of Texas Tribune/Bob Daemmrich)

After getting a close look at the challenges and opportunities facing our trade partners in Mexico, I’m more determined than ever to continue to find ways to promote trade in ways that benefit Texans and all Americans.