Here’s the fourth installment of Glenn Hamer’s reflections on his participation in a historic bipartisan trade delegation to Mexico City led by state Reps. Tony Rivero and Rosana Gabaldon.
While most of the legislative delegation headed to Guanajuato for more meetings, I stayed behind and participated in a series of sit-downs organized by the well-connected José Andres Garcia, and two former heads of the Arizona Mexico Commission, Rubén Alvarez and Kim Sabow, who now heads the Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association. Our meetings focused on NAFTA and how we can work together better on the US side of the border to get the right result from the renegotiation talks.
Our meeting with Jorge Vallejo of Nissan, one of the leads in the Mexican business community on NAFTA, was particularly insightful. We learned how the business community has organized itself in Mexico and is approaching the talks. The coordination between the private sector and the national government is exemplary, and is something we could learn from. Given the administration’s, ahem, skepticism on NAFTA, though, it will take a different formation in the US to have maximum impact.
I believe we need a Persian Gulf-style coalition of the willing; all the major national business and trade groups, state and local chamber on the business side, and members of Congress, governors, mayors and other elected leaders on the government side driving a specific set of outcomes that we would like to see.
The US Chamber has established a tri-lateral effort, the North American Economic Alliance, with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and Mexico’s leading business advocacy group, the Consejo Coordinador Empresarial.
This is going to be a state-by-state battle. Corn and agricultural in Iowa will play a different role in the conversation than the auto industry in Michigan or the oil and gas industries in Texas.
The meeting with ProMexico, Mexico’s foreign direct investment promoter, opened up an important new thought. One way to think of trade is North America against other blocs, such as China and the rest of Asia. There are gaps in our supply chain. NAFTA should be used as an opportunity to fill these gaps.
Part of that effort should be a more robust effort for the three countries to work on STEM areas and skills. Much of the angst on trade is really a result of automation in the manufacturing process. Let’s get our universities, community colleges and trade schools engaged. During the trade mission, Rep. Rusty Bowers mentioned the possibility of a Career and Technical Education exchange program between Arizona and Mexico high school students that is worth pursuing.