Mexico still can be our land of opportunity

Mexico Trade

Author: Steve Zylstra, President & CEO of the Arizona Technology Council.
Source: Phoenix Business Journal – Oct. 27, 2016

If you have the opportunity to tap into doing business inside one of the top 15 economies in the world, would you jump at the chance? If you told your employees their efforts could position your company to enjoy revenue streams from what is projected to be the fifth largest economy by 2050, would that be a motivator?

If you answered “yes”—or even asked, “where?”—you get a sense of why this week I joined government and business leaders from Phoenix on a trade mission to Mexico City. Yes, in this campaign season when politicians seem to hold our neighbor to the south at arm’s length, we all jumped at the chance to find out more about how Arizona and Mexico can help one another.

The delegation included officials from the City of Phoenix, Greater Phoenix Leadership, Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce along with leaders from various Arizona companies. The goals included promoting new trade and investment opportunities to support quality job growth by positioning metropolitan Phoenix as an innovative, business friendly hub that connects the Americas.

Believe me when I say the potential does not escape a number of companies in our state. In 2015 alone, Arizona’s exports to Mexico totaled $9.2 billion—more than 40 percent of the entire export portfolio. Leaders from those companies likely would attest to the Mexican buying power.

For the science and technology community that the Arizona Technology Council represents, its members already know the impact so far of this market. Mexico is the third largest IT exporter on Earth while also having six of every 10 personal software process developers in the world. Closer to home, it is the main supplier of the medical device industry in the United States and the sixth largest supplier to the U.S. aerospace industry. You now get an idea of why I needed to be part of this important delegation.

Add to that our attending a reception for Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton that was hosted at the residence of Roberta S. Jacobson, U.S. ambassador to Mexico. This offered us all face-to-face introductions to key Mexico City public and private sector leaders. Other highlights included a tour of Google of Mexico offices along with a stop at the City of Phoenix’s own office in Mexico City. The experiences we shared with one another as well as our new Mexican friends was energizing!

I can’t thank organizers enough for making this trip a reality, and our government and business leaders for clearing their calendars to make this special journey. Finding new partnerships beyond our borders through trips likes this is always critical to growing our economy. While the Council has participated in trade missions as far away as China, this experience in Mexico City comes at an especially critical time for all of us.

You no doubt have heard Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican challenger Donald Trump both bash the international trade agreements critical to supporting the continued economic growth of Arizona and America. In particular, the candidates have expressed their desire to renegotiate parts of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA. Trump even has said he would withdraw from the accord altogether if he is not satisfied with negotiations. As the numbers I’ve already shared indicate, a change in NAFTA would be crippling to Arizona. Jacobson likely would share that sentiment since an earlier assignment was serving as deputy assistant secretary for Canada, Mexico and NAFTA issues in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.

Getting the most attention is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — which would open opportunities in Asia, the most important market in the world today. Clinton has said she would oppose trade agreements like TPP unless they create good-paying American jobs and boost incomes. TPP holds that promise. We need to get TPP and other pending agreements executed so that businesses can get on with the international trade they are hoping to enhance.

Instead of building walls, I encourage you to help build bridges by your actions or by your vote. If you do have an opportunity to participate in a trade mission or just a trip outside of the United States, go. The best future for all of us is one we can share together.