LAREDO, Texas – IBC Bank Chairman and CEO Dennis E. Nixon says a new bilateral trade agreement between the United States and Mexico will bring stability and security to the border region.
Gerald “Gerry” Schwebel, IBC’s executive vice president visited Mexico City last week to meet with leaders of the incoming government of President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
“Do not be fooled; this is not only a trade agreement. In addition to securing jobs and prosperity, this agreement is about being competitive and bringing stability and security to the region,” said Nixon, referring to a preliminary new trade agreement announced by President Trump last week.
“What the United States was able to accomplish in the 20th century is now an opportunity for continued success for the North American continent in the 21st century; but we must work to keep the Americas competitive by advancing trade agreements with all nations in this hemisphere (North and South America) to compete against Asia, Europe, and the emerging nations of Africa. We all look forward to Canada signing on.”
Under the preliminary agreement, at least 75 percent of the content of autos sold in the trade block must be made in North America. While 40 percent must be made by workers earning at least $16 an hour. If these conditions are not met, new auto vehicles being shipped between the U.S. and Mexico would be subject to tariffs.
“As CEO of a Laredo-based bank, I have witnessed first-hand the powerfully positive economic impact NAFTA has had in Texas and throughout the United States over the past 24 years. The bilateral agreement between the United States and Mexico is an important step in renewing and updating this critical trade pact,” Nixon said.
Nixon is a member of the U.S.-Mexico CEO Dialogue, an elite group of 25 U.S. and 25 Mexican chief executives whose members address core issues in the bilateral relationship between the two countries. The Dialogue is an initiative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, of which Nixon is a former member of the board of directors.
Schwebel’s visit to Mexico City was part of a a mission organized by the U.S.-Mexico CEO Dialogue. Schwebel and other representatives met with Dr. Graciela Marquez, the Mexican Economic Minister designee, Alfonso Romo, Chief of Staff designee and Liaison to the Mexican private sector, and officials from the Mexican Foreign Ministry.
“We’ve seen what NAFTA accomplished for the prosperity of our country, and in particular the border region,” Schwebel said. “The United States cannot abandon its leadership role in international trade.”
Schwebel is also a member of the U.S.-Mexico Economic Council, another initiative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He and Nixon believe the new agreement represents a modernized trade agreement; and is essential to this country’s continued global leadership. They hope Canada is part of the agreement.
Another IBC leader, Eddie Aldrete, a senior vice president, said the preliminary trade deal between the U.S. and Mexico would be an update on the current North American Free Trade Agreement.
“As we update the tripartite trade agreement, nothing is more important for the Texas economy than solidifying our trade relations with Mexico, the state’s largest trading partner and the nation’s third-largest trading partner,” Aldrete said.
Aldrete also serves as co-chair of the Texas-Mexico Trade Coalition, a pro-NAFTA group whose members include the Texas Association of Business, the Texas Business Leadership Council, the Borderplex Alliance and the Texas Association of Manufacturers.
Nixon, Schwebel and Aldrete have had leadership roles in bilateral efforts to facilitate the successful conclusion of NAFTA negotiations. Earlier in the summer, the three IBC leaders participated in the biannual meeting of the U.S.-Mexico CEO Dialogue in Washington, D.C.
Meanwhile, U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar and Vicente Gonzalez have provided statements on President Trump’s NAFTA update.
“President Trump’s official notice to Congress today is a welcomed step forward in the NAFTA negotiation process. This is a clear signal that the administration is serious about solidifying a final deal on an updated NAFTA that will continue to spur growth and economic development for both countries, as it has since its inception over two decades ago,” said Rep. Cuellar, D-Laredo.
“Although we have not yet been briefed on the specifics of the agreement, significant progress has been made. I urge the administration to continue to develop a deal that includes Canada, so that we may continue to build upon the successes of the 24-year-old, trilateral trade agreement.”
Rep. Gonzalez, D-McAllen, said: “For over 20 years, the North American Free Trade Agreement has allowed the people of the 15th District of Texas to participate in two key markets, and establish even stronger relationships with two close allies. Now that the clock has started, farmers, ranchers, businesses, and community leaders across the country are counting on the administration to deliver. Those of us in Central and South Texas will be watching closely and look forward to reviewing the details of this agreement as negotiations continue to take place.”
Working with his colleagues in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Gonzalez has invited U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer to discuss the administration’s trade policy.
“International markets are key to the economic success of small, medium, and minority-owned businesses,” Gonzalez said.“Latino communities thrive when we have a seat at the table and productive working relationships with our neighbors in North, Central, and South America as well as our friends overseas. I look forward to welcoming Ambassador Lighthizer to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and advocating for a trade policy that opens doors for Hispanics and prioritizes American competitiveness and prosperity.”
Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez of New York, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Small Business, said: “Small businesses are directly affected by our nation’s trade relations with the rest of the world. Many small firms’ suppliers are located abroad and entrepreneurs are increasingly exporting products to secure new customers and create jobs here at home. It’s therefore vital we examine how the Trump Administration’s trade policies are affecting the small business sector.”
Here is the CHC letter:
August 31, 2018
The Honorable Robert E. Lighthizer
United States Trade Representative
Office of the United States Trade Representative
600 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20508
Dear Ambassador Lighthizer,
We write to invite you to meet with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) regarding the administration’s trade policy. We are particularly interested in discussing your outlook for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), recent tariffs, and their effects on the business owners, families, farmers, and workers we proudly represent, as well as future plans for free trade agreements.
Like you, we are committed to developing and supporting policies that will best promote American prosperity and leadership on the international stage. However, we are concerned that current policies neither reflect nor achieve these shared aspirations for our fellow Americans, particularly for Hispanics. President Trump’s tariffs are already taking a serious toll on businesses small and large in urban and rural areas, and could raise prices for consumers. Our country is experiencing blowback in the form of retaliation tariffs on a variety of agricultural and manufactured products, including soybeans, beef, pork, and chicken. Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture will soon begin authorizing up to $12 billion in short-term relief for affected producers, we need a long-term plan to recapture market access, mend fences, and keep rural America in business.
In that same vein, we worry that the current tariffs could have lasting effects on some of our most important strategic and historic alliances. The President cited Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which allows the U.S. to impose tariffs on foreign countries if they “threaten to impair the national security”. This has alarmed Mexico and Canada, two close allies. It remains difficult for most to argue in good faith that importing steel and aluminum from our two close allies could reasonably impair U.S. national security. Similarly, while there has been recent progress on U.S.-Mexico trade, remaining uncertainty surrounding the timeline for and content of a final NAFTA package, in addition to the participation of Canada, continues to give many community and business leaders pause.
This administration’s approach to world markets significantly impacts the ability of small, medium-sized, and minority-owned businesses to operate in global markets, and can help or hurt Latino communities as well as our relationships in Latin America and beyond. As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, it is now more essential than ever that we give American businesses and workers the tools they need to compete in the global marketplace. Whether it is dedicated entrepreneurs or small business owners, we owe all those striving to achieve the American Dream access to the markets and resources they need to survive – and thrive.
We appreciate your attention to this request and look forward to meeting with you to discuss these challenges, your plans to address them, and potential opportunities to move forward in the best interests of our constituents. To confirm your availability, please contact CHC Executive Director Alma Acosta at [email protected].
Members of Congressional Hispanic Caucus
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above story shows Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and U.S. President Donald Trump.