Mexican ambassador announces inspection-free border crossings
By Terri Hall
November 15, 2012
“Welcome to San Antonio, the NAFTA city,” declared San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro at tonight’s opening of the NAFTA 20 conference held in San Antonio to commemorate 20 years since the signing of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in the Alamo city. Castro served as host for the event and spoke of NAFTA’s vision being fulfilled, and San Antonio proudly acting as the conduit. Leaders from the three North American countries had promised something akin to announcing NAFTA 2.0, and they didn’t disappoint.
Mexican Ambassador to the United States Arturo Sarukhan determined, “If Texas is the engine behind the success of NAFTA, San Antonio is the spark plug.”
Then the Ambassador eagerly divulged that within the next 3-5 days, the Mexican government is prepared to announce pre-inspection facilities in Mexico where goods entering that country headed for the United States would be inspected at these Mexican facilities and allowed to enter the U.S. without stopping at the border. Companies would be pre-certified and vetted by the two governments in a tremendous leap toward erasing the United States border with Mexico and achieve one of NAFTA’s chief goals -- to create a common economic and security perimeter, a true North American Union.
In the midst of political and business leaders singing the praises and successes of NAFTA, like the integrated supply chain and elimination of tariffs and other trade barriers, many of their remarks played defense, as opposition and protectionist sentiments loom large, particularly with U.S. unemployment remaining stubbornly high.
This made Sarukhan’s call to modernize NAFTA by the three countries joining the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) that much more bold. Many leaders in North America openly fret about the threat of TPP to NAFTA, while the Ambassador encouraged them to embrace it. He acknowledged that security and political issues have caught up with NAFTA and that none of the three countries’ leaders seem willing to deepen NAFTA, so he called the TPP a way strengthen NAFTA through the “back door.”
“I don’t think there’s the interest in deepening NAFTA, but the beauty of TPP is we can do it through the back door, by having Mexico, Canada, and the United States join the TPP and bring us up from the bootstraps,” revealed Sarukhan who wants to see NAFTA pushed further with what he called low hanging fruit like a single customs form and cabinet-level NAFTA czar within each government.
“It is my job to convince the Americans that this bilateral relationship with Mexico is the most important relationship it has on the face of the earth,” claimed a confident Sarukhan.
Canadian Consul General Paula Caldwell St.-Onge took friendly swipes at the bilateral connection forged between the United States and Mexico, quick to note that the trilateral relations launched under NAFTA ushered in a new age of prosperity for Canada, which is the top export destination for 35 states.
She warned, “We need to protect ourselves from protectionist views,” echoing Sarukhan’s sentiments. “When you say ‘buy American’ you’re wrong. We should buy North American.”
Regardless of the enthusiasm of these trilateral leaders, NAFTA’s growing pains and future roadmap will be debated and addressed throughout the day Friday when the conference comes to a close.