PHARR, RGV – So impressed are Pharr International Bridge leaders with customs broker Adrian Gonzalez that they plan to take him with them when they take their Bridge Connect trade sessions on the road in Mexico.

Gonzalez, McAllen & Brownsville branch manager for Daniel B. Hastings, Inc., gave a two-hour presentation to import-export professionals on how the North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiation is going.

Daniel B. Hastings is a Laredo-based licensed customs brokerage with over 75 years of experience in customs brokerage, warehousing and distribution.

“Our Bridge Connect series has been so successful we are taking it on the road in Mexico. We will be taking it to Monterrey, Mexico City, Culiacán and some of the other major cities,” said Luis A. Bazan, director of the Pharr International Bridge.

Luis A. Bazan

“We plan to take Adrian with us. I think we hit a home run asking Adrian to come and speak to customers. We need more people like him that are well-versed on subjects like NAFTA.  He is obviously a great tactician, he understands what is going on. But again, he simplifies it. He makes it understandable, what is happening behind the scenes.”

In his presentation, Gonzalez gave his analysis on the latest NAFTA negotiations, including the possibility, mentioned in news reports just 24 hours earlier, of the Trump Administration dropping its insistence that 50 percent of the regional value content of automobiles built in the U.S., Canada, or Mexico, come from the U.S.

“We have been talking to Adrian for a number of months now about giving this presentation. He is very knowledgeable on the subject of NAFTA, being in customs brokerage. His appearance fits our strategy of bringing a more in-depth perspective to our Bridge Connect trade sessions,” Bazan said.

“Some folks might be confused about rules of origin, tariffs, things like that. He simplified it.”

Bazan was also pleased with the turnout.

Adrian Gonzalez

“There were more than 90 people that signed up for this session and I counted over 100 heads here. We are very pleased. Our Bridge Connect sessions have been a tremendous success. This is our way to give back to the community at no cost. It gets more successful each time we host a session.”

Pharr’s Bridge Connect trade sessions are held once a month. They used to be held at the Tierra del Sol Golf Course but now the Pharr Development & Research Center is up and running, the sessions are held there.

 A feature of the sessions is the questionnaire that each attendee is asked to complete. Bazan said these are useful to get an idea on what the companies that use the Pharr Bridge are thinking. Bazan said this month’s questionnaire will help when he participates in a summit on NAFTA being hosted by South Texas College on April 20.

“We are crossing so much product over the Pharr Bridge. Our numbers are increasing month after month and year after year. Our job is not just to sit back and watch these trucks come through. We want to find out all about these import-export businesses, these trucking companies, these customs brokers. We want to be able to talk to them, learn more about their processes, how much they are growing, how much they expect to grow in the next five to ten years,” Bazan said.

“Today was a perfect opportunity for us to reach in a little bit deeper and get their input on what they are hearing, how NAFTA could affect them, in either a positive or negative way. And we will use this at the STC summit. I am privileged to participate in this upcoming NAFTA panel. We are well-informed by what we hear in the national newspapers but what is happening here locally? I think we are missing out if we are not listening to our customers, the users of this international bridge, folks that live it day in, day out.”

So how is the Pharr International Bridge doing? Bazan was happy to share the positive news.

“Last year, 2017 was obviously our biggest year to date. We reported an increase of 12 percent, both in imports and exports. Now, our biggest numbers have been about nine, close to ten percent, since the start of our fiscal year, back in October. We are still growing,” Bazan said.

“As for fresh produce, the numbers are very overwhelming. We just reported about 17,000 crossings in produce for the month of February, which represents a three or four percent increase. We are still growing. A lot of it can be attributed to our strategic location – the major roadways that are leading in from Mexico, from some of the seaports in Mexico, which trucking companies are using to take their product to the northeastern part of the United States.”

While the numbers are good, Bazan and his leadership team at the Pharr Bridge are not resting on their laurels.

“We are very pleased with what is going on. But it has been a lot of hard work. It is not just about sitting back behind a desk and watching it go by. We do a lot of the legwork ourselves, we get out there, we promote. We had a trade delegation in Culiacán, the largest city in Sinaloa, a few weeks back It went great. We had about 75 people in attendance.”

Legislative Trip

Early last week, Bazan took a group of state lawmakers on a tour of the Pharr Bridge. The lawmakers, from the Texas House Committee on Transportation and the Texas House Committee on International Trade & Intergovernmental Affairs, held a legislative hearing in Weslaco last Tuesday. They then hopped on a bus to see the Pharr Bridge. Bazan was on the bus to give an overview of the importance of international trade.

“One of the conversations was about a possible joint inspection of trucks, federal and state. The legislators were able to see some of the new facilities we have at the bridge, and the infrastructure projects we are planning to introduce.”

Asked if he highlighted the infrastructure projects happening on the Reynosa side of the Pharr Bridge, Bazan said: “I did touch upon some of the things that are happening in Mexico. We know Mexico is working on an $80 million modernization project for the Reynosa side of the bridge, which is a huge deal for us. It is huge not just for Reynosa, not just Pharr, but the state and the nation. We all benefit from it, all our neighboring cities, the whole Valley, our local businesses. I am pleased the legislators got to see our bridge first-hand. We had Rafael Anchia, chair of the international trade committee, and Geanie Morrison, chair of the transportation committee. We had Mando Martinez, vice chair of transportation. It was a winning afternoon.”

Asked if there was any discussion about unified cargo processing, where trucks would be inspected by U.S. and Mexican customs officials at the same time, Bazan said:

“I took advantage of having them on the bus for a good 20 minutes or so. I told them what is happening and what is holding us up. We understand Mexico is ready to go, there are companies that want to take advantage of our dead hours, from 7 a.m. to 12 noon, which is what the unified cargo processing pilot would entail through the land port of entry in Pharr. The bottleneck is at the federal level in Washington. It is being reviewed. There has to a feasibility study to make sure it works. We are going to keep pushing for that.

“We are members of the Border Trade Alliance. I know that is one of their priorities, unified cargo processing. But, we really would benefit from it right now. Especially when we have a Monday or a Friday, or when they have a Mexican holiday and they close earlier. When you see the pile up of trucks that did not make it the day before, we would really benefit from unified cargo processing because it would only entail one inspection for both countries.”