BROWNSVILLE, RGV – A Rio Grande Valley business leader who helped develop the Bi-National Economic Development Zone (BiNED) project has welcomed new border-related proposals from Mexico’s president-elect, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Carlos Marin, president of the Ambiotec Group, noted that López Obrador wrote to President Trump recently to outline his ideas for cross-border cooperation. AMLO, as López Obrador is often referred to, will take office on Dec. 1.

“Newly elected Mexican President Lopez Obrador’s letter to Trump, which outlines a proposal to address immigration and insecurity through economic development and mutual cooperation, is a very welcome development for the U.S.-Mexico Border region for two important reasons,” Marin told the Rio Grande Guardian.

Carlos Marin is interviewed by a reporter at South Texas College’s technology campus in McAllen in November 2017.

“First, Obrador’s proposal directly links economic prosperity and improved security in Mexico and Central America to the reduction of illegal immigration to the United Sates. This is a very important step forward because this approach is, on the one hand, consistent with the United States’ political goal of protecting its southern border. 

“But it’s also a powerful and effective strategy. Unlike other approaches designed to address control of the southern border, it focuses not just on the symptoms, but on correcting the real root causes of illegal immigration: insecurity and lack of economic opportunities in Mexico and Central America.”

The second reason AMLO’s proposal to Trump is to be welcomed is because of its likely impact on the border region, Marin argues.

“The U.S.-Mexico border is ideally poised to take advantage of a joint binational economic development strategy as espoused by Obrador because of its uniquely favorable demographics, location, and bilingual-bicultural-biliterate-fronterizo spirit and culture.”

Marin notes that AMLO’s proposal specifically mentions the creation of free trade zones in the southern and northern borders with Mexico; a reduction in the local value-added tax; an increase in Mexican wages; and the creation of a multi-country investment fund to promote jobs, security and economic development from Central America through Mexico.

Under AMLO’s proposals, such a multi-country investment fund would see 75 percent allocated to development and 25 percent to security.

“In a post-Brexit, anti-globalization economic environment where regional economies will emerge, NAFTA is better positioned to become the leading regional economy in the world. This will place the Texas-Mexico border, and especially the Rio Grande Valley/Matamoros-Reynosa region, in a unique position to transform its largely pass-through, public sector dominated economy into a major value-added, centrally located advanced manufacturing hub,” Marin argues.

“No other place is better suited to bring the best of the competitive elements of the United States and Mexico, together with those of our region, in one location under one roof.”

Marin noted that local leaders helped compile a study for United Brownsville entitled “Backward Integration of Manufacturing Supply Chains in the Brownsville-Matamoros Region – An Approach for Creating a Competitive Binational Advanced Manufacturing Cluster”. 

“The study was made possible through the support of Congressman Filemon Vela and was funded by the U.S. Economic Development Agency. It was prepared through a joint effort of the Woodrow Wilson Center, The University of Texas RGV, and Ambiotec Group,” Marin said.

“One of the principal recommendations of the study was the creation of international free trade zones along the U.S./Texas Border as part of an overall Binational Economic Development (BiNED) strategy focused on advanced manufacturing. The BiNED strategy was proposed to address not only the generational low per capita incomes in the region through advanced manufacturing, but insecurity and immigration as well through the creation of a virtual economic border wall.”

Marin said this approach is “very much consistent” with Obrador’s vision. 

“And it’s a vision that is setting the stage for true collaboration across our binational region. There is no better time for the Rio Grande Valley and our friends in Matamoros and Reynosa to work together to prepare and take advantage of this opportunity,” Marin said.

Marin added: “We welcome and support Obrador’s proposal, and hope that he and President Trump can find common ground to secure our southern border in an effective and mutually respectful manner.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above story shows Mexico’s president-elect, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.