By Karl Reiner
The U.S.-Mexico relationship has its good and bad points. Over $540 billion in merchandise trade moved between the countries in 2012. Mexico ranks third as an American supplier and second as an export market. There are security problems involving the massive illegal drug trade, illegal migration (mostly from Mexico and Central America) and the flow of smuggled firearms to Mexico. With Arizona's state leaders focusing mainly on security, the economic benefit of being a border state tends to be ignored.
SB 1215 is moving unobtrusively through the Arizona Legislature. The bill extends the life of the Office of Sonora (part of the governor's office since 1992) for eight years. The office works on exchanging information, promoting business and tourism with the state of Sonora, Mexico. It assists the Arizona-Mexico Commission and keeps tab on the North American Free Trade Agreement.
In an Arizona made famous throughout the world by the passage of SB 1070, it seems peculiar that SB 1215 is not being denounced by the legislature's vociferous conservative critics. The lack of noise may be an indication that state lawmakers, after seeing the many ramifications of SB 1070, have modified their views on Mexico a bit.
Mexico's economy is growing faster than the U.S. economy. And the mayors of Arizona are taking note of it. On a recent trade mission to Sonora, the mayors of Avondale, Buckeye, Glendale, Goodyear, Litchfield Park, Nogales, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Surprise, Tucson and Youngtown were busy expanding economic ties. Tucson's Mayor Rothschild is leading the movement. He has been to Sonora twice. He knows Arizona and Sonora are economically linked and that by working together, opportunities develop.
In 2011, Arizona's exports of $5.9 billion to Mexico earned it 4th place among the states exporting to Mexico. In 2012, Arizona's exports of $6.2 billion only garnered 7th place. In a year's time, Arizona dropped behind Louisiana, Unallocated and Illinois. Texas led the states in 2012, with exports to Mexico of $94.8 billion. It was followed by California with $26.3 billion.
The Mariposa Port of Entry at Nogales is one of the busiest American land ports. An approximate $200 million improvement project funded by stimulus dollars is underway. When completed in 2014, the 216,000 square feet facility will have double the inspection capacity. The long waiting time for trucks, which has often run between four and eight hours or longer during busy times, will be a thing of the past.
The project is an important part of the Canada to Mexico trade corridor. About half of all the fresh produce entering the U.S. across the southern border comes through Arizona. About 3,000 trucks per day are expected to be rolling through Mariposa by 2014. The refurbished port will improve logistics, making Arizona more attractive to firms. With a large expansion of Sonora's Guaymas seaport in the works, Tucson's excellent rail connections are expected to help expand its role as a distribution hub.
The Cafe Terra Cotta property on Sunrise Drive has been acquired and remodeled by Nino Aidi. It opens on March 29 as the Five Palms Steak and Seafood Restaurant. Born in Syria and raised in France, Aidi operated restaurants in Mexico before undertaking his Tucson venture. He hopes the Five Palms will become a meeting place for people doing business in Arizona and Sonora. With the mayor's emphasis on trade relations, his timing may be just right.