Remarks by Assistant Secretary Roberta Jacobson at the wilson center’s “Envisioning a Competitive U.S.-Mexico Border” Panel


(Please click to watch the video of remarks and event)

On Economics:

In the United States, we sell more to Mexico than to Brazil, Russia, India, and China combined … We sell more than $1.5 billion in trade daily with Mexico, supporting millions of jobs…

…What we needed to do together was bring the economic and commercial side of the [U.S.-Mexican] relationship back into the public view and make sure that we were giving it as much attention, as much profile, as much ‘oomph’ as we possibly could.  And so the High Level Economic Dialogue was launched to focus on competitiveness and connectivity, to foster economic growth, productivity, entrepreneurship and innovation in particular, and … to focus on partnering leadership both in the region of the Western Hemisphere and globally…

…In April, the United States and Mexico agreed to connect the Mexican small business development centers with similar U.S. centers so that we can make sure that small business owners and entrepreneurs in both countries have the resources that they need to be able to talk to each other, get advice from each other, and tap into each others’ networks to do the exporting that they need. One of the reasons I think that is so critical is when the President launched the small business network of the Americas at the Summit of the Americas in 2012, Mexico was one of the areas in which the small business development centers took off fastest. There are more small business development centers located in Mexico than any other country in the Western Hemisphere.  We all know that small businesses really are the engines of growth and, in particular, the engines of job creation in our economy.  But those small businesses in each of our countries, in general, don’t export … The small business development centers, when linked together … can help [small businesses] take that first step towards exporting.

On Education:

[Education] is central to our vision of a competitive border and two competitive countries.  President Obama launched the 100,000 Strong in the Americas in 2011 to increase the flow of university-level exchange students between the United States and Latin America and the Caribbean.

What the global workforce in this twenty-first century looks like is what I like to call global learners.  Global learners are people who have had experience in more than one culture … who can operate in the multinational environment…

…If we continue to have the same socioeconomic groups of students who have come here forever, whose parents and grandparents came here for school, who can afford it, that if those are the same kids who keep coming, then I will not have succeeded and I don’t think you will have either.  We have to broaden that pool to the kids who never thought they could come here, to the kids who are not coming here… to Stanford, but they’re coming here to community college, and they’re coming here to technical schools, and they’re coming here because they’re going to learn how to operate the computer machinery in a production plant.  That’s really what I’m trying to expand, and that’s hard…

On Infrastructure:

All of the efforts that we have been undertaking to make the border more competitive will not actually mean much if people, and vehicles, and goods cannot get across the border … Studies that we have looked at have shown that border traffic congestion and delays cost the U.S. and the Mexican economies an additional estimated $7.2 billion in gross output, and more than 62,000 jobs…

…Construction has started on the Mexican side of the border for the Cross Border Facility at Tijuana Airport, which I think is a unique project and I’m particularly excited about that one.  The U.S. side is nearly complete.

On the Bilateral Relationship:

When I started to work on Mexico in 2003, …it seems to me that there weren’t nearly this many projects going on … There is a sense that some either very slow processes are coming to fruition or initiatives are beginning to take hold because people have demonstrated the utility of them, we have convinced people that we have gotten money, whatever the reason.  I think there is momentum again for things moving in that direction.  That is incredibly important to begin … to make up some of that deficit that we face.

…Over the last … six months or so, we have seen a rapid movement on bilateral security projects with the Mexican government … We have moved ahead on some 85 or more projects under the Merida Initiative that were on hold.  Other projects, I want to underscore, were ongoing throughout this period.  The pause was never a suspension of all programs.

This is a relationship that is going extremely well … We are very excited about the relationship, and very positive about the relationship, and believe that that will, as always, be reflected and initiated at the border itself.