Border issues are of great importance to Arizona. Trade between Arizona and Mexico totaled $12 billion in 2012 alone. That’s not a small number.
The health of Arizona’s economy depends on good trade policy and good relations with our southern neighbor, characterized by improved transportation links, increased international flights to and from Mexico, strengthened infrastructure and the resources necessary to process the trade taking place in the region. Without these modifications, our country and state will miss out on significant economic opportunities.
On Monday I headed to Tucson to participate in a field hearing on these issues, led by Rep. Matt Salmon, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere. Several of Rep. Salmon’s colleagues also participated in the bipartisan panel, including Reps. Ron Barber, Kyrsten Sinema, David Schweikert and Albio Sires of New Jersey. Together, the panel discussed methods for improving trade and ensuring a successful re-launch of the Mariposa Port of Entry at Nogales following a long remodel and expansion.
I had the opportunity to speak on behalf of Arizona businesses, representing the issues most important to promoting continued trade and commercial growth. One of the biggest issues at hand is the overhaul of Mariposa. While significant improvements have been made, there are still concerns surrounding the staffing level and ability of the port to handle the flow of traffic. It’s essential that efforts be made to allot the appropriate level of staff resources at this site. Without this allocation, miles-long backups will continue and efforts to expedite business will be futile.
Improved transportation links in this area must also be a top priority for our leaders. The recent federal designation of Interstate 11, linking Las Vegas and Phoenix, was a welcome step by Congress. I-11 is an essential component for linking Mexico, the United States and Canada – also known as the Canamex trade corridor. However, bottlenecks must also be remedied in order for trucks to access this new highway. Without the reconfiguration of Arizona189, freight trucks will face continued congestion in their attempts to reach Interstate 19 between Nogales and Tucson, costing business significant time, money and resources.
The Arizona Republic editorial board today published a great piece on the hearing and the importance of the issue, identifying our border as a possibility, not a problem. Arizonans are taking note of the potential our border holds. If handled correctly and provided the necessary resources, our state (and nation) has the potential to maximize these economic opportunities.
I thank Rep. Salmon for representing our state on this issue and for bringing together members of our delegation and business community. Solutions aren’t always easy and work certainly remains to be done, but Arizona is ready and able to tackle the challenge. And the business community is ready to help.