Thank you for the invitation to speak here today. It is an honor for me to represent the Arizona-Mexico Commission, which is dedicated to improving relationships and building strong economic opportunities for the people of Arizona, Sonora and all of Mexico.
Arizona and Mexico are inextricably linked by geography and a rich history. We are more than neighbors; we are friends, and we are partners.
Between neighboring countries lies a border – a line on a map, where the lands of one nation end and those of another begin. But the people of that region are not so easily demarcated.
A border can be a barrier or a bridge. It can be seen as merely dividing two places; or seen as connecting and uniting them in common purposes that advance two peoples toward higher ends.
At the Arizona-Mexico Commission we have been building a stronger, wider bridge between our countries for 60 years.
Critical partners in this work, and more critical every day, are two of the world’s great universities, Arizona State and my alma mater, the University of Arizona. We, as Arizonans are so fortunate to have such outstanding institutions.
As most of you know, each of these two institutions is under the executive leadership of globally recognized university presidents. Both of those presidents, like Arizona itself, rose from modest beginnings on the strength of perseverance, diligence and resilience.
Bobby Robbins began his journey at a community college in Ellisville, Mississippi. He audaciously decided to become a physician. Then he decided to be a surgeon, and as a medical student showed up uninvited and unannounced at a gathering of the leading cardiothoracic surgeons in the world. Show me the way, he said.
They did. Dr. Bobby Robbins would end up as the head of Surgery at Stanford University. Then he would become the chief executive of the 110,000-employee Texas Medical Center, before accepting the Regents’ appointment as the president of UofA. He had performed literally thousands of heart surgeries before taking the helm of the U of A.
Michael Crow’s accomplishments across his 17 years transforming ASU – a longevity seldom seen in the sector – are well known to all of us and around the world. Dr. Crow is among the leading experts in the world on universities – how they grow and evolve and their role in driving economic growth. Some may know that he is a highly skilled technologist and a decisive thinker who can synthesize knowledge into action at a world-class level. Less known is that he grew up the son of a Navy enlisted man, lost his mother at the age of 9 and lived in 16 different places as a child. Nothing stopped him then and nothing stops him now.
President Crow and President Robbins -- rivals on the field (go Cats) but friends and colleagues in advancing Arizona and the Arizona-Mexico relationship – are both with us here today.
Their presence reflects the importance our universities have to our relationship with Mexico. Over the past several years the Arizona-Mexico Commission has signed four MOUs with universities on both sides of the border, largely as a result of the work done at ASU and U of A. And there is more work being done at the community college level also.
This sharing of intellectual property and capacity is the basis for a bright regional future in which our people can flourish. The two-word State Motto of Arizona is, “God enriches.” And we know that in every way, he most enriches those who enrich one another.
What is extraordinarily valuable for Arizona, the business community and the border region is the study of the dynamics along the border associated with key policy challenges – water, the movement of people, community health, infrastructure, logistics, energy, agribusiness, the list goes on. Our universities are at the forefront of gathering, analyzing and understanding this data so both public and private sectors can make better decisions. Decisions that help create healthy vibrant communities.
The idea of being cross-cultural, bilingual and well-traveled only enhances our society. We want to encourage international engagement through all the productive pathways we can develop.
We want to build a better wider bridge.
I feel this personally. Today I live in Phoenix with my family, and am blessed to be immersed in the civic, community and commercial life of our great state. However, I was born and raised in Brazil and lived in Honduras for three years before moving to Tucson to finish high school and attend the University of Arizona. My experiences have given me a deep appreciation for both our cultural differences and our similarities.
We are more similar than different.
A shared prosperity will be the foundation for all common purpose among the nations of North, Central and South America. Trade and commerce have for centuries created relationships which advance the lives of nations, and the 21st Century will be no different.
Arizona’s trade with Mexico in 2018 reached $16.6 billion, a 7.7% growth over 2017, meaning our 6 ports of entry with Mexico were the gateway for 737 trains, 397,000 trucks, 12,800 buses, 17.8 million cars, and 25.1 million people – of just of northbound traffic.
Arizona has some outstanding examples of what can advance our border infrastructure and the movement of goods, services and people.
Unified cargo processing is one. It started as a pilot program here in Arizona and championed by the Arizona-Mexico Commission. It became a national best practice and is now being adopted throughout the border region. It includes the co-location of customs inspection facilities to enable trucks, cars and people to go through U.S. and Mexico customs simultaneously.
The border liaison unit is a collaboration between law enforcement agencies to share best practices, intelligence and train together.
A recent historic initiative with the State of Sonora helped create the first highway safety corridor for Arizona travelers headed to the beaches in Sonora, significantly reducing vehicular accidents.
We are about to break ground on a $134 million modernization of SR-189 in Nogales, Arizona’s principal trade corridor, a project that had the support of every transportation planning organization in the state of Arizona.
We have also deployed a historic program to train Mexican truck drivers to comply with Arizona road safety standards enhancing the safety of our roads and expediting their inspection processes.
We are supporting the efforts to secure $248.3 million to modernize the San Luis I port of entry and the construction of a new port of entry in Douglas.
We have tens of thousands of people each day who move across and along our border as a bridge to different parts of their lives. Let’s make sure they can do that quickly, effectively, efficiently and safely allowing law enforcement in both countries to focus on those with nefarious intent.
I spoke earlier of our world-class university presidents – highly effective leaders working for the future of our state and bi-national region. They have a colleague in that work – the son of a police officer and of Arizona State University – who brings his own talents and drive to the table.
Governor Doug Ducey brings an unusual combination of business judgment and high civic intention to the leadership of our state.
Governor Ducey has a business leader’s aversion to the drama and theatrics that characterize much of our present politics. He would rather pose a solution than play to a crowd.
He sees a job that needs doing, and does it. I traveled with him to Mexico City on his first international trip as governor in 2015 and again late last fall for the inauguration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador where he represented our state and our country exceedingly well. He productively engages with both the current administration in the United States and with the current administration in Mexico.
That takes a level of diplomacy, vision, warmth, authenticity, understanding of policy, and political nuances and complications that few people have at any level of government. His outreach and efforts – not only with the Governor of Sonora, Claudia Pavlovich, but also with the Mexican federal government – has created an international model on how to productively engage and concentrate on the areas where we agree and where we can expand opportunity and prosperity together.
I have been honored to work with the governor and his team on these issues over the last several years and know firsthand we have an executive team in place that is dedicated to expanding trade with Mexico and enhancing our relationship. Recent media accounts involving the governor’s comments on the border have been edited to be as sensational as possible (I’ve learned to watch the entire clip; I encourage all of you to do the same), and then in turn the reaction has been rather vitriolic. Arizona has a great advocate in Doug Ducey. He believes in trade. He believes in a vibrant Mexico and a strong relationship between our nations. That, though, typically does not make for exciting headlines.
In closing, I have a request of all of you here.
The United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement (USMCA) has yet to be ratified in Congress. I am deeply concerned it is going to be held hostage for political reasons. As, unfortunately, most things are in Congress these days. We need to do everything we can to not let that happen.
As a reminder, trade between Arizona and Mexico was up 7.7% last year for a total of $16.6 billion. 50.2 million people crossed the Arizona-Mexico border – both north and south bound. This profoundly matters to our state. The USMCA helps Arizona grow its relationship with Canada as well, a trading partnership that reached over $3.7 billion in value. Our congressional delegation needs to hear from all of us – not only in our professional capacities, but also as citizens.
Those who represent us in Congress must rise above the partisan politics and ratify the USMCA agreement.
It is another pivotal moment in the shared lives of our neighboring nations.
It is a better wider bridge to a better future.
I ask you to reach out and engage in support of ratifying USMCA.