“When I come to Mexico, I feel that I come to the home of my friends.”
I fully understand what President Lyndon B. Johnson felt like during his visit to Mexico in 1966. It is a privilege for me to visit Texas to continue to build even stronger political, economic and social ties with one of Mexico’s oldest and closest friends.
Our relationship is by several measures already robust. Almost 50 percent of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport’s international traffic goes to Mexico, with 57 daily flights to 15 cities. In 2014, 1.9 million trucks crossed from Mexico to Laredo carrying goods, some of them going as far as Canada. The University of Texas at Austin currently plays host to many Mexican international students. And over 1,000 Houston businesses report having ties with Mexico.
Mexico is Texas’ largest market. $100 billion dollars were exported to Mexico in 2014. The Lone Star State in itself would be Mexico’s leading trading partner worldwide after the United States, with total trade amounting to $192 billion last year. A growing number of Mexican companies are active in Texas, creating tens of thousands of jobs for the people of this state. And there are many sectors waiting to be developed by entrepreneurs of vision in both Texas and Mexico.
The energy reform enacted by President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration, for example, offers new opportunities for investors across the border willing to participate in Mexico’s expanding energy markets. We hope to benefit from Texas’ long-standing technological expertise, ensuring a cleaner and more reliable energy supply for our region.
Our partnership is close, but there is scope to strengthen it further with a strategic vision, starting with our common border.
Texas and Mexico share 33 ports of entry. An open and constructive dialogue is the most effective way to improve bilateral security, boost competitiveness and build fruitful interactions. That has not always been the case in past years. We therefore welcome SB797, the recently enacted law that will reduce waiting times at the border during the inspection of agricultural products. Initiatives of this kind deepen our collaboration and contribute to our prosperity. We need to promote more of them based on a principle of shared responsibility and avoid unilateral and misguided approaches that seek to build walls rather than bridges between our societies.
That principle also applies to our communities. A third of Texas’ population is of Mexican origin. And tens of thousands of Texans have chosen Mexico as their home.
Our historic, cultural and social ties should continue to grow on both sides of the border. The enormous contributions of Mexican immigrants to Texas should be recognized and drive positive changes in public policies to improve the lives of all people in the state, allowing everyone to reach their full potential. We look forward to working with Gov. Greg Abbott and his administration to this end. It is common-sense politics.
We can also strengthen our collaboration in education, innovation and research to consolidate the competitiveness of our region. Last year alone, over 6,000 Mexicans pursued a degree at Texas universities. Just a few months ago, UT-Austin signed a broad agreement with our National University (UNAM) to expand academic opportunities. Although Mexico is the third country of origin of international students in Texas, we need to raise that number so that it truly reflects the strength of our relationship.
Our future is already intertwined by geography and history. The breadth and scope of our relationship give us a renewed opportunity to steer it together with a shared and strategic purpose.
This week I will be meeting Gov. Abbott, legislators, entrepreneurs, business leaders, Mexican immigrants, community organizers and stakeholders who are part and parcel of strengthening our ties.
I am convinced that through dialogue and engagement, Mexico and Texas can build a path together to a brighter future.
Editor’s Note: The above guest column first appeared in the Dallas Morning News. You can find the column here.