These days, when most Americans think of the southern border, it’s in the context of illegal smuggling and immigration. In reality, that barely scratches the surface of what cross-border activity means for US interests.
(The Wilson Center).- In recent remarks at the Wilson Center, Esteban Moctezuma, Mexico’s Ambassador to the US, noted that nearly $1 million of bilateral trade takes place across the US-Mexico border every minute. That’s roughly $1.8 billion per day. And that cross border commercial activity is on the rise, up 23% last year from 2020, and 18% in the first trimester of this year.
There are some 56 ports of entry across the United States’ southern border, with a several targeted for new investments to boost their efficiency and effectiveness. In addition, if combined into a single economy, the ten US and Mexican border states would be the world’s fourth largest. When combined with Canada, the North American region is a global powerhouse able to feed, clothe, and power itself almost without any input from the rest of the world.
That’s not to say that illegal immigration isn’t real or relevant – it is. But it’s only a fraction of daily human border crossings. Roughly, 1.5 million people cross our southern border in both directions every day. Of those who enter the US from Mexico each morning, more than 90% are American citizens who live in Mexico and work in the US.
We recently marked the second anniversary of the United States Mexico Canada Trade Agreement, referred to as USMCA, which is an opportunity to recognize the importance of trade in the Americas. USMCA was negotiated by the Trump Administration, and adopted with the largest bipartisan vote for a multilateral trade deal. While the COVID-19 pandemic has made clear some of the vulnerabilities in key supply chains, USMCA and the growth of cross border commerce is reminding us of the opportunities for “near shoring” and “friend shoring.”
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