Thank you, Al and the U.S.-Mexico Chamber of Commerce, for inviting me here today. It’s an honor to be at this event.
You’ve heard from many panelists today about U.S.-Mexico ties. About good work and exciting developments on both sides of the border. Today, I’d like to outline my vision for U.S.-Mexico relations, and my conviction that only by working together can we both grow stronger.
I firmly believe that no bilateral relationship touches the everyday lives of Americans more than the one we have with Mexico. Our people are linked. Our companies are linked. Our economies are linked. And we must remain integrated to compete in a global economy.
In Texas, you understand this as well as anybody. You understand that our trade with Mexico creates U.S. jobs. Texas alone exported over $100 billion worth of products to Mexico in 2014, and like many years prior, Mexico remains Texas’ top export destination.
But let’s take a broader look. Mexico is the United States’ third largest trading partner (behind Canada and China) and our second largest export market. More than $580 billion dollars in trade in goods and services crossed our border last year – over $1.5 billion every day. Furthermore, our three-way trade with Canada was an astounding $1.2 trillion in 2014.
What does this integration mean for our region, and how can we the governments ensure this integration meets its full potential? It means that our region – through our integrated supply chains, through our similar business approach, and through the joint training and travel of our citizens – can continue to attract investment, grow businesses, and provide employment and prosperity for our citizens.
As governments, we should remove barriers and facilitate trade between us. For example, we need to improve our border crossings to get people and products across faster. We’re already doing this – in fact, tomorrow we’re inaugurating a rail bridge linking Matamoros and Brownsville – the first new rail crossing constructed in 100 years.
Now, in the modern world, we cannot expect our economies to grow and generate new jobs if all we do is buy and sell to ourselves. Trade is a job creator, period. Exports support about 11.7 million American jobs. Over 95 percent of the world’s consumers live beyond our North American borders. And we need to sell to them.
Most of you in this room have heard about the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or the TPP, the twelve-nation trade agreement currently under negotiation. TPP countries account for nearly 40 percent of global GDP and about one-third of all world trade. We are in the final stretch of this negotiation – with Mexico as a key partner. This agreement will allow our already-integrated supply chains to penetrate new markets.
Trade is the most quantifiable thread that ties our two countries together. But there are so many other elements – and opportunities – in our relationship. Texas and Mexico are poised, thanks to Mexico’s recent energy reforms, to make our energy future brighter. Our companies are already working together closely in the Gulf of Mexico. Now they have exciting, new opportunities and they are contributing to a North American energy renaissance.
And behind our industries are our strongest asset: our people. Unless we support educational exchanges to support researchers, innovators, and entrepreneurs, we simply cannot stay competitive.
In 2014, we launched a bilateral forum on education, called FOBESII in Spanish, whose aim is to prepare our students for global realities. We have a program called 100,000 Strong in the Americas. Its goal is to have 100,000 students moving in both directions in our hemisphere by expanding study abroad programs. In January, we signed an MOU with Mexico to promote internships; it authorized 500 additional J-1 visas for companies and organizations to recruit Mexican interns.
These programs will shape a new generation that understands how to do business in both countries. How to bridge divides. How to seize opportunities. And how to stay competitive as we look to propel our economies in the years to come.
In the last few years we’ve created other mechanisms to grow our economies. The government-to-government U.S.- Mexico High-Level Economic Dialogue, or HLED, to elevate and prioritize our economic collaboration. Our bilateral 21st Century Border process to keep our border a point of exchange, not division. And our public-private bilateral entrepreneurship council (MUSEIC) aimed at creating a robust innovation ecosystem in Mexico. These structures share one aim: to make us more competitive, together.
We sit down at the table with Mexico, roll up our sleeves, and work to create jobs on both sides of the border. And we do this with your help. Chambers like yours, companies like yours, employees like yours. You can tell us where to focus. What would make the difference for your business. What would help you expand your company.
Let me also speak about an issue that underpins all of this: security. The truth is neither of us can fix this on our own. It requires working hand-in-hand with Mexico. We have forged strong partnerships to improve civilian security to fight drug trafficking, organized crime, corruption, illicit arms trafficking, and money laundering on both sides of the border.
The U.S. government is working with the Government of Mexico to accelerate efforts to support and hold accountable the institutions that are essential to a stable society: police, justice systems, and civil society organizations. These institutions should adequately protect and defend the rule of law and human rights. We are doing this through the Merida Initiative, a $2.3 billion bilateral security assistance program. The Merida Initiative supports Mexico’s transition to the new criminal justice system, trains police, and works to create a 21st century border. We still have challenges ahead, but we are working through them side by side.
The vision I wanted to outline for you today is that we are strongest when we work together. And we are working together – continually, strategically, and successfully. Our challenges are shared challenges. Our successes, shared successes. And our future prosperity will be shared prosperity.
I look forward to taking your questions and hearing your thoughts.