The Border Mayors Association held a bi-national summit in San Diego, CA, and Tijuana, BC, on July 26-28. At the summit, 16 elected officials, including McAllen Mayor Jim Darling (pictured far left), signed a Resolution in support of NAFTA.

MCALLEN, RGV – McAllen Mayor Jim Darling says he plans to get involved in the re-negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement through the Border Mayors Association.

Darling says he expects the BMA, otherwise known as the Asociación de Alcaldes Fronterizos, will meet in Washington, D.C., and Mexico City within the next six weeks.

“I would like to see those visits in the next six weeks or so because that train is rolling down the tracks,” Darling said, in reference to the fact that renegotiation of NAFTA has already started.

NAFTA is a free trade agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada. Its terms are being revamped because President Trump made it a top campaign issue in last year’s presidential campaign. Trump said it was the worst trade deal the U.S. ever entered into. Since then, however, the Trump administration has toned down its criticism.

Darling said the Border Mayors Association met in San Diego in July for a bi-national summit and passed a resolution on NAFTA.

“We met in San Diego and one of the things we talked about is not only having a meeting at one of the border cities but certainly go to Washington and Mexico City. We passed a resolution showing our concern about NAFTA –  that it be continued and be improved,” Darling said.

“But, we also want to develop a more definitive position paper that we all can agree on and go to Washington and Mexico City as a group of border mayors and promote it.”

Darling said that on the visit to San Diego they also had one meeting across the border in Tijuana.

“Did you know there are 65,000 workers that go across the bridge every day to work in the United States? I guarantee you those jobs, primarily in agriculture, are not going to be filled by Americans,” Darling said.

“You saw it with the reduction in visas for the shrimp work here – there was a reduction in the amount of product. It is going to start showing up on the American supper table, the impact of restricting labor into the United States will mean less choice. It is pretty much an export-import on ag, depending on the location. Overall, it is almost an equal deal.”

Asked about the concept of the Border Mayors Association, Darling said:

“It was set up a few years but did not often meet. Then they set up a Border Governors group, which corresponded with the Border Mayors Association. The Border Governors group does not meet at all and probably will not meet because of the political differences between the border governors. We are inviting the border governors to come visit. I suggested the Border Mayors Association meets three times a year, once on the border, once in Mexico City and once in Washington. And probably more frequently than that, at least until NAFTA gets finished.”

Asked if it might not be too late to have an impact on the NAFTA negotiations, Darling said:

“There will be a time when we can have some input. What we have heard is, instead of a direct affront and Mexico with all this talk that ‘we’re bringing jobs back here,’ now the talk is about making sure Mexican workers have similar benefits to those in the United States,” Darling said.

“Today, the tone in Washington is very different. Instead of ‘we think NAFTA is a terrible document,’ now it is, ‘hey, shouldn’t we be concerned about the Mexican workers.’ That is an issue they are going to have to deal with.

“When you actually look at it, the Mexican worker has a lot more protections from a union standpoint than a U.S. worker does. When you are talking about wages, you have to look at the cost of living. A Mexican worker is not going to make $30, $40, $50 an hour like a General Motors worker and you could not expect that because the cost of living is much different in Mexico.”

Here is the Resolution passed by the Border Mayors Association on NAFTA:

WHEREAS: The implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994 brought together and created economic prosperity for the United States of American (U.S.), the United Mexican States (Mexico) and Canada with tri-national trade up 295 percent since its inception; and

WHEREAS: NAFTA has been successful in its purpose to increase trade and investment in North America by creating the world’s largest trade region, with more than 480 million people, and in particular U.S. trade with Canada and Mexico has nearly quadrupled to $1.3 trillion; and

WHEREAS: Fourteen (14) million U.S. jobs depend on trade with Canada and Mexico, and 43 of 50 U.S. states list Canada or Mexico as their 1st or 2nd largest export market; and
Whereas: Through Foreign Direct Investment, 6,500 Mexican-owned companies conduct business in the U.S. accounting for 120,000 jobs and investing $52 billion into the U.S. economy; and

WHEREAS: Two important issues related to NAFTA renegotiation should address a unified approach to border infrastructure and security rather than the existing disjointed approach that adversely affects border cities, counties, and businesses; now,

THEREFORE, be it RESOLVED, that the U.S.-Mexico Border Mayor’s Association:

1. Urges the President and the Congress of the United States to recognize the importance of trade between the U.S. Mexico and Canada as an opportunity to renegotiate, modernize and optimize North America’s competitiveness; and
2. Urges the President and Congress of the United Mexican States to recognize the importance of trade between the U.S., Mexico and Canada as an opportunity to renegotiate, modernize and optimize North America’s competitiveness; and
3. Supports that the first rule of renegotiation should be Do No Harm; and
4. Provides for clear, straight-forward rules of trade to ensure that all business, in particular small to medium-sized businesses, have the opportunity to participate; and
5. Provides modernization to mean: (1) adopt advances in technology not in existence in 1994, (2) amend rules of origin to eliminate tariff shift without impairing the quality of the product or its competitive pricing, (3) improve cross-border, inter-agency coordination and (4) amend regulations in support of small-value banking transactions that are a significant and much-needed part of cross-border commerce; and
6. Supports that tariffs and fees generated and collected at all borders – Canada, Mexico and the U.S. should be dedicated to support border infrastructure, modernization and staffing before remitting the remaining dollars to each country’s treasury as is the current practice; and
7. Supports updates to NAFTA labor and visa categories to reflect modern classifications and expand common standards for professions and mutual recognition of skills credentials. A need-based immigration system will identify the number and the types of skills looked-for in the U.S.; and
8. Recognize that a one size-fits-all barrier approach to border security is not the solution. In addition to technology, it is vital to work with the border terrain and topography to create an effective barrier. For example, along many parts of the U.S. and Mexico border, the answer is cleaning up the river in cooperation with Mexico to provide a natural barrier and security zone; and
9. Supports that renegotiation should be conducted with urgency, so as to minimize uncertainty injected into the U.S. economy.

Signed:

Kevin Faulconer
Mayor of San Diego, CA

Catherine Blakespear
Mayor of Encinitas, CA

Serge Dedina
Mayor of Imperial Beach, CA

James E. Darling
Mayor of McAllen, TX

Nora L. Barraza
Mayor of Mesilla, NM

Ron Morrison
Mayor of National City, CA

John Ferguson
Mayor of Presidio, TX

Gerardo Sanchez
Mayor of San Luis, AZ

Jose Yepez
Mayor of Somerton, AZ

Javier Perea
Mayor of Sunland Park, NM

Andy Ramos
Mayor of Alpine, TX

Maritza Hurtado
Mayor of Calexico, CA

Juan Manuel Gastélum Buenrostro
Mayor of Tijuana, Baja California, MX

Hector Armando Cabada Alvidrez
Mayor of Juárez
Chihuahua, MX

Lic. Nereida Fuentes González
Mayor of Tecate, Baja California, MX

Ing. Jose Enrique Reina Lizarraga
Mayor of San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora, Mexico