LAREDO, Texas – Members of Congress have asked the Mexican government to put pressure on the Biden Administration to speed up port infrastructure projects in the U.S.

This eye-catching development was revealed by U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar in an exclusive audio interview he gave the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service about a recent visit to Mexico City. 

A delegation of 12 members of Congress, from both House and Senate, met with Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his entire Cabinet in Mexico City.

“This Biden) administration’s permit (process) is a lot slower than the prior (Trump) administration,” Cuellar said. “So, we feel frustration that there are a lot of ports that are being delayed… (in their expansion plans). And so we asked them (the Mexican government) to make sure they work with us on that.”

Asked to elaborate, Cuellar said it was all to do with National Environmental Policy Act, otherwise known as NEPA.

“The delays are on the U.S. side. What it has to do with is… there is NEPA, this national environmental work that has to be done when you expand or do a new port. The problem is that… under Trump, they would grant the presidential permit and then continue the NEPA environmental work. They would run at the same time,” Cuellar explained.

“Under the current administration… you file your permit… (but) you cannot get the approval until you do the NEPA. The problem is the NEPA could take 18 months or more. So, instead of working at the same time, you have to wait for the environmental work. You wait and wait and then you get the approval and then start the construction.”

Cuellar said this is not very efficient.

“So, we’re asking the Mexicans to make sure they talk to the U.S. to help them consider making it more efficient.”

Syncing technology at land and seat ports

Cuellar said the Mexican government purchased almost a billion dollars of U.S. equipment to improve technology at both land and sea ports.

“There are three major American companies that sell to the U.S., to CBP (Customs and Border Protection). But now the same companies have sold that same equipment to the Mexicans. So for the first time, as the Mexican (official) said, hey, we’re going to have technology at our ports and it’s going to be the same technology (as the U.S. has).”

Cuellar applauded this development. He said he told the Mexican Cabinet members to ensure that through the new technology, port administrators on both sides can talk to each other. 

“So it’s the same company, the same technology. I think this will allow us to screen in a more efficient way on the Mexican side and on the US side, to share the information. So, it’s the same equipment that we have in the ports in the Valley, Laredo and other places. So that was important.”

Business at land ports growing fast

Cuellar said Customs and Border Protection officials have told him that some ports are growing by five to eight percent per year. He said the growth is due to near-shoring. Which means, he said, that installing better infrastructure at land ports of entry becomes even more important.

Cuellar said he told the Mexican president what the CBP forecast models were saying.

“When the President responded… he said, well, you know, it could be more than five to eight percent because if we do near-sourcing, if we bring more companies in, that means that there’s going to be a bigger growth. Therefore, if you have a bigger growth then why the heck are we taking our time on presidential permits? We should be moving a lot faster.”

Cuellar said President López Obrador was “very supportive” of what he was saying. 

“The President said, well it could be a lot more than that (eight percent growth) if we get more American companies that come down to Mexico from China. It could be a bigger growth (pattern). I responded, yes, for example, the Tesla plant in Monterrey. That means there is going to be a lot more activity through the Colombia Bridge.”

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