Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador recently made his first visit to the White House since he took office in December 2018. The July visit was intended to celebrate the inauguration of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement and include Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but the latter chose to stay home, ostensibly due the coronavirus risk. It’s no secret, however, that Trudeau and Trump have had their differences regarding trade, and each has hit the other with punitive tariffs on key goods.
Lopez Obrador has been more diplomatic with our president, despite the flow of aggressive rhetoric regarding trade and immigration from that country. In fact, AMLO, as he is popularly known by his initials, has helped deal with the U.S. policy of sending immigrants to his Mexico, even if they’re not from there, while they wait for immigration court hearings.
Such efforts to cooperate are always vital for neighboring countries, but they will become increasingly important as North America’s countries as a whole work to reignite their economies from the effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Canada and Mexico are our country’s top two trading partners, with a combined total of more than $1.2 trillion in goods traded with the United States last year. The benefits of that trade are more than economic; in addition to increased U.S. oil production, the purchase of petroleum products extracted from Canada’s tar sands has helped reduce our reliance on OPEC, and reduced our need to maintain a military presence in the Middle East. We hope the reduction of U.S. troops there continues.
The pandemic forced residents in all three countries to cancel vacations, business trips and other travel. Once infections ebb and people begin to fee more comfortable leaving their homes, we can expect many people to reschedule those trips, or plan new trips, to celebrate their new freedom. Although most people still went to the store to buy groceries or other necessities and ordered other items online, the total reopening of clothing, electronics and other stores likely will draw plenty of customers who want to buy new items or refresh old wardrobes. Cross-border business will face high demand to keep those stores stocked.
That demand will truly test the new USMCA, as well as our nation’s infrastructure and policies at all ports of entry.
And the bridges that connect the Rio Grande Valley to Mexico are among the busiest. Earlier this year, Laredo replaced Los Angeles as the busiest trade center in the country, replacing Los Angeles, whose ports receive much or our sea traffic from Asia. Valley bridges aren’t far behind Laredo, and that means this area is heavily invested in the trade that relies both on the international relations that allow goods to cross our borders but also the infrastructure, personnel and policies that keep those goods moving.
If President Trump is given a second term, we hope he will see the value in taking whatever steps are needed to maintain cordial relations and help cross-border trade return to normal. Otherwise, we hope his replacement makes his own overtures toward our neighbors in pursuit of the same goals.