BROWNSVILLE, RGV – A one-hour call-in show on Trade, Tariffs and Texas which featured former U.S. ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza took place on various National Public Radio stations across the Lone Star State this week. 

However, the Rio Grande Valley, a region which arguably is impacted the most by these issues, missed out. The reason? Its public radio station has just been sold, so NPR programming, both national and local, is no longer featured over the air. The Diocese of Brownsville sold the station to Immaculate Heart Media/Relevant Radio and NPR programming was replaced by Catholic talk radio.

Fortunately, NPR stations in other parts of Texas make their programming available on digital platforms. So, listeners in the Valley and elsewhere can hear the discussion online. Click here to listen to the Trade, Tariffs and Texas program, courtesy of KUT in Austin.

David Martin Davies

Veteran journalist David Martin Davies started the show with a ten-minuted interview with Ambassador Garza. The show was broadcast soon after President Trump pulled back from his threat to impose tariffs on Mexican imports.

“Interjecting tariffs to discussions unrelated to trade is generally not a good idea and that is what the president has done here and I think it is unfortunate. Let’s hope we have got that behind us as it relates to Mexico right now,” Garza said.

Davies noted that Trump ran for president with the narrative that the North American Free Trade Agreement has been great for Mexico but bad for the United States. Asked if the U.s. is still feeling the effects of that narrative, Garza said: “I think so. I think on some level he (Trump) simply doesn’t understand trade or the benefits of trade.”

Garza said Texas know better because they have seen the impact of trade with its southern neighbor.

“We appreciate what that border means, both the challenges and the opportunities and the hundreds of thousands of jobs related to that ability to trade both with Mexico and Canada,” Garza said: “More broadly I think what we have in North America, the United States, Canada and Mexico is a platform that allows us to compete with China, which is really more of a trade adversary than a strategic alliance, which Mexico and Canada are.”

Tony Garza

Garza continued: “I guess I want to appreciate what the president has said about trade except that I know what it has been to the United States and I know what Canada and Mexico have been to the United States in terms of making us more competitive, creating jobs and attracting investment and growing opportunity for people, certainly in my home state of Texas and in the United States. 

Garza said it is wrong to lump trade disputes with China in with Mexico. “When it comes to Mexico you are taking about an ally and a very strategic partner,” he said.

Garza added: “I know the president has declared victory today but I think, certainly the tariffs did inject some urgency into the discussions and that is good but if you look at the approaches to work with Mexico and stop the numbers of Central Americans coming up through Mexico to the United States, the approaches have been in place. The migrant protocols to remain in Mexico were in place as of December last year, the additional troops along the southern border were in place as of March of earlier this year, the increase in apprehensions and deportation by Mexico had already started to trend significantly up. So, things were moving in the right direction. I am not sure this tariff threat, this holding a gun to your neighbors head was necessary. But, we have got an agreement so let us hope that we have put this behind us right now.”

Gerry Schweben

Following the interview with Garza, Davies introduced a panel of three experts: IBC Bank Executive Vice President Gerald ‘Gerry’ Schwebel, Washington Post reporter for Mexico Mary Beth Sheridan, and Bush Institute analyst Matthew Rooney,

Asked what impact tariffs on Mexican imports would have had on Texas, Schwebel said: “Devastating, really, for us in Texas. For almost every community in Texas it would have been a tremendous blow.”

Asked how integrated the economies of Mexico and Texas are, Schwebel said: “Mexico is our No. 1 trading partner. Since NAFTA it has become much more integrated as we have continued to compete against other parts of the world. What has happened in cities all along the border, from El Paso all the way to Brownsville, they have become such an important part of the supply chain component of this north-south trade.”

Asked if there needs to be a greater appreciation of the importance of U.S.-Mexico trade, Schwebel said: “I think there needs to be more education and understanding of what this trade policy means to someone who lives in the Midwest or the North East. You hear the rhetoric, sometimes it is more negative than positive and we have to do a better job of telling the positive things about this trade relationship. That starts off, sometimes it’s in Washington and it filters down to the state level, to our governors and state representatives. We have got to really boil down to the issue of what it means to your district, what it means to your constituency, to the jobs that are tied directly to this north-south trade.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above media story shows former U.S. ambassador to Mexico and Brownsville native Tony Garza.