20 years after NAFTA, investing in trade more important than ever

The impact of international trade can be felt in every town, city, and business across the United States.  It creates jobs, supports small businesses, and puts more money in the pocket of hardworking Americans. 

We have a responsibility to our nation's still fragile economy to take every reasonable step to invest in this critical segment of the economy that touches nearly every state in the country. 

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Last week, the president was in Mexico for a meeting with Mexican President, Enrique Peña Nieto, and the Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, on the twentieth anniversary of the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  The agreement between the United States, Canada, and Mexico had a transformative and unprecedented impact on the continent, creating a single market with 400 million people and accounting for one-third of the world’s output of approximately $1 trillion per year.

With the success of NAFTA, we need to make sure the Trans Pacific Partnership is negotiated in the right way with our partners so that we can continue to build trade and commerce.  Increased trade will only benefit the American economy and create more jobs.  

That is why investments in our trade infrastructure are so important.  If we are going to embark on new trade partnerships, we need to create a 21st century border, increase the number of Customs and Border Protection officers at our ports of entry, and make sure that the flow of trade benefits our businesses and economy.  Failing to make proactive and meaningful investments in our ports of entry will threaten over $1 trillion in trade and countless jobs.

In my hometown of Laredo, a border city of more than 250,000 people that handles 45% of all trade between the United States and Mexico, I was joined last week by the Deputy Secretary of Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas and the Administrator of the General Services Administration, Dan Tangherlini to announce more than $61 million in federal funding to modernize and upgrade the facilities at two of the four international bridges in Laredo. 

In 2012, the Laredo ports of entry were #1 in the nation for truck border crossings with over 1.7 million crossings and when combined with the over 4.4 million automobile crossings and 38,000 bus crossings, the ports of entry at Laredo registered as the nation’s #1 busiest bus and the 3rd busiest automobile ports of entry.

When compared with Otay Mesa in San Diego, the southern port with the second highest number of border truck crossings, Laredo beat it by over 1 million crossings.  In fact, if we compare every other land port in Texas with Laredo, their total commercial traffic was only around 933,000 crossings, 850,000 fewer crossings than occurred at Laredo.

These are not bridges to nowhere; these are bridges to new jobs, new markets, and new prosperity.

The strength of international trade is a bellwether for the strength of the American economy.  If we invested in all our ports of entry to modernize infrastructure and update technology, our economy would be put on an even stronger path to full recovery. 

Cuellar has represented Texas's 28th Congressional District since 2005. He sits on the Appropriations; the Agricultiure; and the Homeland Security committees.

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