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Gov. Greg Abbott and Raúl Murrieta Cummings, Mexico’s under-secretary for infrastructure, signed a transportation agreement in Mexico City.

LAREDO, RGV – Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz has praised Gov. Greg Abbott for his visit to Mexico City and for working to improve Texas-Mexico relations.

Saenz, along with members of the Laredo Development Foundation and IBC Bank in Laredo, accompanied Abbott on the trip. Saenz said he hopes the path forged by Abbott will be taken up by the state legislature when it comes to issues impacting the Texas-Mexico border region.

“It was clear from Governor Abbott’s speech in Mexico City that he wants to reconnect with Mexico. He values what Mexico is and what it promises to be,” Saenz told the Rio Grande Guardian.

Asked what was gained from the trip, Saenz said the potential for new partnerships and the potential of bringing more Mexican investors into Texas. He noted that the visit was coordinated by TexasOne, a program of the Texas Economic Development Corporation that was created to market Texas as a premier business location.

“It was an incredibly productive trip, not just for the symbolism,” Saenz said. “The governor has set up an energy task force. Mexico has changed its constitution and is now open to foreign investment in the energy sector. We along the border can capitalize on this. The governor signed a transportation agreement. He wants to see more infrastructure, the alignment of roads and highways, to improve efficiencies at the border, to improve wait times at our bridges.”

Saenz said the last official trip to Mexico by a Texas Governor was seven years ago. “That was far too long ago. I am very encouraged by the comments of our new Secretary of States, Carlos Cascos, who also came on the trip. He said he wants to go to Mexico three or four times a year. That shows the importance the administration is placing on Mexico. That tells me they want to stay close to Mexico,” Saenz said.

Saenz said that while immigration and border security dominates news coverage of Mexico in Texas and across the nation there is so much more to discuss. He pointed to projections that Mexico is going to rise steadily up the GDP league table in the coming decades. He also pointed to the many auto manufacturing plants being built in Mexico. And he pointed to the new Mazatlán to Matamoros superhighway that is projected to bring a huge increase in truck traffic carrying fresh produce from Sinaloa through South Texas.

“The immigration issue is important and I support comprehensive immigration reform. But there is so much more. We need to be patient. We are going to benefit so much by being a neighbor of Mexico in the coming years. It is going to be a major economy,” Saenz said. “We must remember Mexico is our No. 1 trading partner. We should respect that. Just in Laredo alone we handle $200 billion of international trade. Laredo needs to be at key the meetings when Texas and Mexico relations are discussed. We need to engage in the dialogue.”

Saenz’s comments echoed the thoughts of Texas A&M International University President Ray Keck and María Eugenia Calderón-Porter, assistant vice president for Global Initiatives at TAMIU in Laredo. In a letter to local newspapers Keck and Calderón-Porter said:

“This week’s visit to Mexico by our Texas Gov. Greg Abbot marks a historical moment that supports our border perspective about relationships with Mexico — that working together as a border region, we continue to break records.

“Our inland port in Laredo has now surpassed New York as a customs district. As the No. 2 port in the USA, a port we share with Mexico, it becomes obvious that our success has not been obtained on our own.

“On our border, we live the day-to-day management of relationships that support this prosperity and success with Mexico.

“Simply put, we are successful because we work together.

“Abbott’s visit represents what we live every day on the border writ large: solidarity of confidence in each other’s businesses. Daily, we witness successful business flows that depend on well-built structures of dependability and trust.

“In our opinion, Abbott’s visit to Mexico is a timely reminder that together we can move forward to continued success, in spite of all the contemporary issues and problems our countries face.

“The problems we face today, the solutions we create and their implementation are the foundation for subsequent generations of shared border success.

“We look to Abbott and his wisdom to work with our Mexican partners in a manner that will ensure the continued legacy of success at our border.”

Secretary of State Cascos appeared on KURV Radio’s morning show on Thursday to discuss Gov. Abbott’s visit to Mexico City. Cascos said the trip was highly successful.

“It was very important to Mexico. It was very important to the Governor,” Cascos said. “It was about mending the fences. The relationship that Texas had with Mexico was somewhat fragile for different reasons. But I think we made a great step forward in solidifying and refurbishing and re-nourishing the relationships that we have.”

Asked specifically about the energy task force and a transportation agreement signed by Abbott and Raúl Murrieta Cummings, Mexico’s under-secretary for infrastructure, Cascos said the overall goal is to improve economic prosperity and create more jobs. He said there was discussion of more border crossing points but without additional highway infrastructure more ports of entry become a moot point.

Asked if there was any discussion on border security, Cascos said that this was really the responsibility of the federal government, not the state of Texas. “We acknowledged the efforts of the Mexican government on their southern border. Mexico is just as concerned about the border as we are. They have made phenomenal efforts to secure their southern border. They are deporting more Central Americans than we are. That helps us on our southern border,” Cascos told KURV.