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LAREDO, Texas – Laredo International Airport has become the first airport in the U.S. to house a Mexican Customs facility.

The City of Laredo has invested $3.3 million in the new, state-of-the-art Bi-National Federal Inspection Services facility. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at the airport on Thursday to inaugurate the new program.

Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz said the development is historic in the sense that nowhere else do two countries share one building at an airport to house two customs.

“Mexican Customs at the Laredo International Airport will expand and solidify the City of Laredo, Texas as the premier commercial port on the southern border,” Saenz said.

Initially, only Mexican certified importers in the auto manufacturing, auto parts, electrical / electronics and aerospace industries will be able to participate in this Mexican Customs pre-inspection, Saenz said. Currently eight Mexican airports are approved to participate, these being Chihuahua, San Luis Potosi, Queretaro, Guanajuato, Toluca, Guadalajara, Hermosillo, and Ramos Arizpe. In the future other airports will be added, Saenz said.

Jose L. Flores, manager of Laredo International Airport, predicted the U.S./Mexico Cargo Pre-Inspection program will simplify and expedite the flow of cargo, reduce freight costs and enhance security for Mexico bound air cargo. He explained how the program will work.

Flores said air cargo destined to Mexico from all over the world can be diverted to the Laredo International Airport to be inspected by Mexican Customs and then flown to Mexico. Air cargo pre-inspected at the Laredo International Airport will, upon arrival in Mexico, be immediately released to the importer without having to pause at a Mexican airport bonded facility, Flores said. Pre-inspection is important to the manufacturing sector that relies on “just-in-time” delivery of its inventory.

“The presence of Mexican Customs Pre-Inspection at the Laredo International Airport will resonate throughout Mexico’s Industrial sectors,” Flores said.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar pointed out that Laredo International Airport is the only airport along the entire southern border with U.S. Customs availability 24/7 and the only non-hub airport in the nation where U.S. Customs processes air cargo 24/7. He called the airport NAFTA’s Cargo Hub.

Cuellar said he worked with the governments of Mexico and the United States to establish the new customs inspection operation at Laredo. He said cargo will be pre-inspected by Mexican customs officers under the Servicio de Administración Tributaria.

Cuellar pointed out that on October 15 of this year, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Mexico’s Finance Minister Luis Videgaray signed the Bi-National Agreement in Mexico City, which paved the way for the Laredo program by permitting DHS to work in close coordination with the Mexican Ministry of Finance and Public Credit.

“The Laredo International Airport is ranked in the top 500 all-cargo airports in the country and is also the only airport on our southern border with a U.S. customs availability 24/7/365,” Cuellar said.

“Pre-clearance facilities, such as this one in Laredo, benefit both countries by saving time and costs to the importer, while also increasing the competitiveness of both countries’ economies. These pre-inspected operations are designed to expedite the delivery of air-cargo to certified Mexican importers in the automotive, auto parts, electronic, electrical and aerospace industries. I thank the City of Laredo and representatives from both the United States and Mexico for working with me to accomplish this historic operation in Laredo,” Cuellar added.

Here are Cuellar’s remarks in Spanish:

“El aeropuerto internacional de Laredo está clasificado entre los 500 mejores y más grandes aeropuertos de cargo en los Estados Unidos. El aeropuerto de Laredo también es el único en todo el país que tiene disponibilidad de aduana las 24 horas del día, siete días a la semana, 365 días al año,” dijo el congresista Cuéllar.

“Las instalaciones de pre-inspección, como la de Laredo, benefician a ambos países porque ahorran tiempo y dinero para el importador, mientras que también mejora la competitividad de ambos países. Estas operaciones de pre-inspección están designadas para acelerar la entrega de cargo aéreo a importadores mexicanos certificados en las industrias de automóviles, partes de autos, electro-domésticos y aeroespacial. Agradezco la ayuda de la Ciudad de Laredo y los representantes de Estados Unidos y México por trabajar conmigo para realizar esta operación en Laredo,” dijo Cuéllar.