MEXICO CITY - I wanted to give you a peek into my calendar over the past month to get a sense of the time and effort the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the broader Arizona business community, and leaders from across the state have been devoting to promoting and strengthening Arizona’s international trade profile and the state’s cross-border relationships. There might be mixed signals coming from the Beltway on trade, but here at home, we’re speaking with one voice.
February 15-16: Arizona-Mexico Commission in Hermosillo
I participated in a whirlwind 18-hour trip to Hermosillo, Sonora as a board member of the Arizona-Mexico Commission, the state’s cultivator of a strong relationship with our southern neighbor.
The trip served as the first official mission for the AMC’s new president, Jessica Pacheco, who was recently named to the post by Gov. Doug Ducey. Jessica is the perfect choice to lead the AMC board. She was warmly welcomed by her Sonoran counterparts as she spoke with conviction throughout our trip before several audiences about the critical need for Arizona and Sonora to partner on issues of mutual interest, ranging from manufacturing, to education, to tourism, and more, all of which make our two states a megaregion.
These trade missions matter. When Lucid Motors announces a major investment in Pinal County and cites Arizona’s integrated automotive supply chain with Sonora, you know that together Arizona and Sonora can drive job creation throughout the region.
February 22: Arizona District Export Council visit with Arizona congressional delegation
It was a packed house at the Chamber offices when we hosted the Arizona District Export Council and five members of Arizona’s U.S. House delegation. It was an insightful conversation that gave Arizona manufacturers, including our own Chamber board member and Arizona Manufacturers Council Chair Dawn Grove of Karsten Manufacturing, the opportunity to speak directly to members of Congress about how the trade policy issues Congress is grappling with on Capitol Hill directly impact jobs back in their district.
The meeting was made possible by dynamic ADEC member Carol Colombo, while the conversation was moderated by Greater Phoenix Economic Council President and CEO Chris Camacho, someone whose ability to attract investment to the area depends partly on our ability to ensure access to markets and supply chains beyond our borders, along with former U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon, a true trade champion whose time in Congress was marked by a commitment to international engagement.
We heard from job creators in the room that day that we should look to improve our existing trade agreements, not exit them. These companies’ customers beyond our shores are critically important to their ability to grow, and the uncertainty and ambiguity emanating from the administration over the fate of trade agreements hamstrings future investment.
February 23: Mexican Sen. Juan Carlos Romero Hicks addresses joint session of Arizona Legislature
Guanajuato Senator Juan Carlos Romero Hicks – a rumored presidential aspirant – was in town to address a joint session of the Arizona Legislature, an event made possible by state Rep. Tony Rivero and Speaker of the House JD Mesnard, who allowed his chamber to become a stage for binational diplomacy.
The senator’s remarks were well timed, as well as realistic. He didn’t come to lecture his hosts, but rather to offer his desire for a deeper understanding between our two countries.
"I don't want this to be just a meeting, but a strengthening of our relationship,” the senator said. Members of both parties and the invited guests walked away impressed.
February 24: Eggs and Issues Breakfast with Rep. David Schweikert
Rep. David Schweikert is the newest member of the U.S. House’s powerful Ways and Means Committee. The hottest issues facing the U.S. economy – tax policy, health care, and, you guessed it, trade – go through that committee.
Arizona is fortunate to have such a thoughtful, forward-thinking congressman occupying this influential seat. Our state economic health is so tied to our number 1 trading partner, Mexico, that we need an advocate working to improve the decades-old North American Free Trade Agreement, not seeking to exit it.
NAFTA was negotiated by President George H.W. Bush and implemented under President Bill Clinton. The Internet then was just a gleam in Al Gore’s eye. The Mexican energy market was still closed to foreign investment and that nation was still defined by one-party rule. Oh, how things have changed.
If there is a desire to revisit NAFTA, let’s do so out of a desire to modernize the agreement to reflect today’s economy. Let’s not, however, look to dismantle what has become a global economic powerhouse that is central to the entire region’s economic prosperity. Doing so would be a major step backward.
Rep. Schweikert understands the power of trade, as well as an economy that has been reshaped by technology. The Ways and Means Committee is better off with him as a member.
February 28: Canada Day at the state Capitol
The over $3.7 billion economic relationship between Arizona and Canada was celebrated as part of Canada Day at the state Capitol, at event at which I was honored to offer a few remarks.
It’s a relationship that means jobs. Over 18,000 Arizonans are employed by Canadian-owned businesses.
And although Canada is north of the 48th parallel, it’s still Arizona’s neighbor – literally. Twenty-five thousand Arizona homes are owned by Canadians, and Canadian spending in our state approached nearly $1 billion in Arizona last year.
Canadian Consul James Villeneuve was on hand, as was Mr. Canada Glenn Williamson, the CEO of the Canada Arizona Business Council, a true ambassador for the Canada-Arizona relationship.
March 1-3: Arizona business leaders mission to Mexico City
Every time I participate in a trade mission in Mexico City I’m struck by the vibrancy of this city. This is truly a world capital and one of the most cosmopolitan spots on the planet.
I also always learn something new. This week our group of Arizona business leaders and trade advocates has met with the equivalent of Mexico’s national chamber of commerce, a textile company, and the country’s most influential business group focused on promoting foreign investment, just to name a few.
Our meetings have underscored that NAFTA is a mutually beneficial agreement, and that Mexico wants to facilitate a conversation on trade, not be an obstruction. After this series of meetings, I walk away confident that the White House has a willing negotiating partner in Mexico.
Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry.