Mayors of Mexican and United States border cities agree that saving NAFTA is crucial to maintaining cross-border trade and economic development in the border region.
The mayors have been meeting in San Antonio, Texas, for the U.S.-Mexico Border Mayors Association’s seventh binational summit, which concludes today.
Efforts to save NAFTA have dominated the discussions, according to a report published by San Antonio news website The Rivard Report, although other issues such as immigration have also been on the agenda.
Mexico and the United States announced they had reached a separate agreement on August 27 that could exclude Canada. Now, three weeks later, whether NAFTA will remain a trilateral agreement remains uncertain.
While trade negotiations have been contentious, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said that border communities represent the most positive aspects of the relationship between Mexico and the United States, particularly on trade.
“Not only do they dot the map as important points of prosperity and opportunity, but they serve as bridges between our two nations,” he said.
“Our binational communities thrive on our dynamic cross-border opportunities centered on commerce, culture, and personal connections.”
Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum echoed that sentiment.
“We do have a history of success in working together,” he said. “The United States is [Mexico’s] main trading partner, with 80% of our exports and 50% of our imports.”
Gastelum also agreed with San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s view that it makes sense for both Mexico and the United States to cooperate on developing mutually beneficial policies in the areas of trade, immigration and environment.
“As [Faulconer] said, we share the land, the water, the air, the culture,” he said. “Thousands of people cross the border every day, making millions of dollars in trade.”
Gastelum and Faulconer, who are the co-chairs of the mayors’ association, signed two resolutions to support international trade and border infrastructure programs.
“By working together, this group of mayors plays a critical role in building bridges between our two countries and showing how collaboration can lead to economic prosperity for the border region,” Faulconer said.
Arturo Sarukhan, a former Mexican ambassador to the United States, said that mayors and other community leaders on both sides of the border have the opportunity to help redefine the Mexico-U.S. relationship.
Mexico-U.S. relations have suffered since United States President Donald Trump took office due to tensions created by his proposed border wall and hardline rhetoric towards Mexico on other issues such as trade, immigration and binational crime.
“It’s being driven not by a disagreement on substance of policy or the mechanics of the relationship, it’s being driven by one man – one man, one narrative, and one decision that originates as a personal beef with Mexico,” Sarukhan told mayors.
But he added that thanks to positive interactions between border communities, the two countries are becoming more, not less, connected and intertwined.
“Our economies, our cultures, our gastronomies – these are two countries that are converging . . . This convergence is our great strength and resilience. That is what we need to continue to build.”