“The U.S.-Mexico border is open for business.” That is the refrain I and others who work on border issues tirelessly deliver wherever we can. But with the media’s relentless focus on immigration, drug-trafficking, and cartel violence, we know that we must provide and promote objective evidence to support our message. A report recently released by Arizona State University’s North American Center for Transborder Studies  (NACTS) and NDN’s New Policy Institute  (NPI), entitled “Realizing the Value of our Cross Border Trade with Mexico ” does both.
The report only confirms the overwhelming evidence that the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration  (ITA) has assembled conclusively establishing that Mexico and, by extension the U.S.-Mexico border, is vital to the long-term health of the U.S. economy. However, all of that evidence is for naught if Americans are not made aware of it.
That is why I was pleased to join the effort to promote and further publicize the NACTS /NPI report at an event hosted by the New Democrat Network (NDN) last week, where I was joined by one of the authors of the report, NACTS Director D. Rick Van Schoik. I am convinced that it is through this kind of collaboration—between the public and private sectors—that we will change the national conversation about the border.
Particularly in tough economic times we must not allow ourselves to be distracted by ancillary issues. As President Obama made clear in his State of the Union address, our focus must be on growing jobs and strengthening the American economy. Mexico and the U.S.-Mexico border are essential to that effort. Mexico is the U.S.’s third largest trading partner and second largest export market. Last year, we did nearly $400 billion in two-way trade, translating to more than $1 billion dollars a day on average. Notably, even goods imported from Mexico support U.S. jobs. That is because 64% of the content of Mexican goods sold in the U.S. are made from U.S. inputs.
As in any relationship, there are challenges, but we are working hard to address them. The ITA has launched a Border Export Strategy , seeking ways to further facilitate cross-border trade. We have placed a senior director on the border full-time to increase our awareness and responsiveness to challenges U.S. companies face in the region. The ITA has also sent half a dozen trade missions to Mexico in a variety of sectors, including green energy/energy efficiency and health care, with more planned this year, such as the one I am leading this week. These missions serve to showcase the ingenuity and know-how of U.S. companies.
An “America Built to Last” is an America that plays to its strengths and leverages its most important resources. Chief among those strengths is the commerce flowing across the US-Mexico border—an asset that is, as the recent NACTS /NPI study affirms, “hidden in plain view.”
Michael C. Camuñez is the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Market Access and Compliance U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Administration.