LAREDO, Texas – U.S. Representatives Henry Cuellar and Will Hurd want the U.S. and Mexico to coordinate on the definition of an “essential” business.

The lawmakers have sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Mexico’s Foreign Secretary Marcel Ebrard calling on the two countries to have the same guidelines. 

They say their goal is to provide businesses with clarity and ensure cross-border trade and international supply chains can continue moving properly.

The backdrop to the letter is the impact the coronavirus is having on the economy of North America. Because COVID-19 hit Mexico later than the United States, many businesses in the Mexico are still closed, while those in the United States are opening up. 

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has said many maquiladoras can re-open on Monday. However, many maquiladora workers are concerned that if they go back to work they will contract COVID-19.

Recently, Christopher Landau, the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, made a similar call to Cuellar and Hurd. He wants the term “essential business” to mean the same thing in Mexico as it does in the United States. 

In Mexico, AMLO has, during the current coronavirus pandemic, left the designation of “essential business” to his health secretary.

Congressman Hurd of San Antonio said:

“Trade between Mexico and the U.S. is critical to both our economies, and, here in Texas, this trade is particularly important. As we continue to battle COVID-19, we have to ensure that our supply chains can keep running, and our businesses can operate under healthy circumstances. In order to do that, Mexico and the U.S. should coordinate our definition of an ‘essential’ business or service. This will allow businesses in both regions to operate while keeping our trade relationship alive and thriving. This is key to ensuring the U.S. continues to be a major economic force in the world, and it will help propel North American competitiveness forward.”

Congressman Cuellar of Laredo said: 

“Vital supply chains between the United States and Mexico, on which jobs, food production, medical and other critical goods all rely, have been disrupted due to the coronavirus pandemic. It is imperative that we coordinate our national guidance with Mexico on what is considered “essential” businesses or services. As the chairman of the U.S-Mexico Interparliamentary Group and a member of the Bipartisan White House Task Force, I am committed to ensuring our economy is positioned for long-term prosperity and working with our Mexican neighbors in order to do so. I want to thank Congressman Will Hurd for his partnership on this issue. I would also like to thank the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Border Trade Alliance, and border stakeholders for their commitment to economic prosperity for our two nations.”

Here is the letter penned by Cuellar and Hurd:

U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar and Will Hurd

Dear Secretary Pompeo and Secretario Ebrard:

May 12, 2020

As the United States continues to combat the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we have a difficult and important task in determining which businesses should remain open under an “essential” business or service definition. That task is made more complicated by cross-border trade, international supply chains, and needed coordination with foreign governments.

Overall, we are pleased by the continuity of manufacturing and logistics operations. We are concerned, however, with divergent definitions of what is considered “essential” in Mexico. Hundreds of American companies are facing challenges navigating these policies surrounding essential economic services and functions. This has resulted in disruptions that are especially concerning when they hinder the ability of components and finished products to move back and forth across the U.S.-Mexico border.

As trade continues between the United States and Mexico, we must coordinate our essential business designations to ensure access to necessary supply chains. Specifically, we request that you coordinate designations of critical sectors most adversely impacted, in two categories, with Mexico: 1) sectors deemed “essential” in both the U.S. and Mexico that are experiencing supply chain disruption; and 2) sectors deemed “essential” in the U.S. that should be considered “essential” in Mexico.

As such, we encourage you to address the concerns and recommendations we received from the Border Trade Alliance, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and U.S. business leaders outlining their requests for support to ensure the continuity of trade across the U.S.-Mexico border during this pandemic, in the enclosed memorandum.

Thank you for your consideration of our request. 


U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar

U.S. Rep. Will Hurd

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador visiting a maquiladora in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, in January, 2020.

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