Good afternoon. It is indeed an honor for me to be here with you.
I want to thank the director of the ITN, José Escárcega Castellanos, for hosting me this afternoon. I am very impressed by the work this university is doing at the border and you play a vital role in this community with your business associations and in preparing the workforce of the future.
As I travel across Mexico, the thing that strikes me every time I visit a new city is the energy and initiative of young people across this great country, and how much we are doing together in communities across both sides of the border.
The United States and Mexican governments are working closer than ever before and it’s a relationship of which we can all be proud. A great example is in our commercial relationship. Here at the border, you know better than anyone about the deep connectivity between our two countries when it comes to the economy, with over $1.1 million in goods and services crossing our shared border every minute.
Just in the Arizona-Sonora region, that partnership has led to unprecedented growth and serves as a model for binational collaboration. This Nogales transportation corridor is really at the heart of that. In fact, the two-way trade between Arizona and Mexico was almost $17 billion last year.
In August, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Mexican Customs inaugurated a Unified Cargo Inspection pilot program for certified cargo companies at the Mariposa Port of Entry. Since then, approximately a quarter of cargo trucks at Mariposa have benefitted from this new process where Mexican officials work side-by-side with CBP, cutting wait times from over three hours to about 30 minutes. They are sharing notes, combining resources, and making our trade not only more efficient, but more secure. Agents from both CBP and SAT have the ability to refer a truck for further inspection, which ensures that illegal or dangerous cargo does not pass through the border.
New innovations in technology, for which ITN is a leader, will also help make our shared border not only more secure, but smarter. I encourage you to apply your learning to invent new processes and help create the transformation in our commercial relationship in the years to come.
I know that many of you have participated in our Youth Council and we want to keep that connection strong. The Consulate has just opened an internship position to help cover economic and political issues and is looking for a university student to fill that role. Please consider these opportunities to expand your professional skills and networking as you embark on your career.
We also have with us some recent high school exchange scholarship winners this afternoon from the program Jóvenes en Acción. Please stand to let everyone recognize you.
These five students from Colegio de Bachilleres in Magdalena were the only team from northwestern Mexico to participate in the Jóvenes en Acción exchange this year, and were selected out of more than 700 candidates. Their project, “La unica salida es hacia arriba,” is designed to combat sexual violence and harassment among young people. I am very proud of all the outstanding work they have done and want to extend my heartfelt congratulations to them. I hope that other young people can look for ways to make a positive and powerful impact in their local community just like our Jóvenes participants.
On the University level, we have a number of programs that bridge our educational systems, our professors, and our students. In fact, my journey to becoming Ambassador began years ago when I studied abroad in Argentina. I discovered a world of new ideas and experiences and, most importantly, a calling that has been my passion for more than thirty years.
I was proud to have helped President Obama launch the “100,000 Strong in the Americas” initiative in 2011 to foster region-wide prosperity and economic competitiveness through international academic exchange. Our goal is to see 100,000 U.S. students studying in the Western Hemisphere and 100,000 Western Hemisphere students studying in the United States by 2020. In addition, Presidents Obama and Peña Nieto named education a priority on the bilateral agenda with the Bilateral Forum on Higher Education Innovation and Research, also known as FOBESII. This translates into more academic exchange opportunities for you.
Later on you may want to consider graduate studies at a U.S. university; if so, the U.S.-Mexico Commission for Educational and Cultural Exchange offers Fulbright-García Robles scholarships. I would love to see more Sonorenses studying in the United States!
I believe the best way for our two countries to continue improving our relationships is to further increase our exchanges and educational initiatives. The decisions you as students make today can have a lasting impact in both of our communities for years to come. I encourage you to continue your studies and continue to think about international engagement, whether it’s through an exchange, business ties, or tourism. Only through greater connectivity and contact with one another will we achieve shared prosperity and more secure communities. Positive change is always possible, and that change lies with you and starts here in Nogales.
Thank you again for joining me today.