U.S. – Mexico CEO Dialogue: “The Wheels are in Motion”
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) when Mexico joined Canada and the United States to establish the largest free trade zone in the world.
Recently, I attended the 3rd meeting of the U.S – Mexico CEO Dialogue in Monterrey, Mexico jointly organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and their counterpart Consejo Coordinador Empresarial (CCE). CEOs from both countries joined government officials including Mexican Secretary of the Economy Ildefonso Guajardo and U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce Stefan Selig. During our meeting the CEO Dialogue’s three Working Groups presented findings geared toward capitalizing on the resulting opportunities of this successful agreement, and taking the relationship to the next level.
The initiative I co-chair along with Emilio Cadena of INDEX, focuses on “Optimizing Cross-Border Trade.” Our Working Group adopted a recommendation that the two governments commit to a goal of taking no more than 30 minutes to clear shipments across the border from “trusted traders” – established companies that have met objective criteria for certification. During the coming months, we will be working to identify exactly where border-crossing delays occur, and to assist both governments in channeling their resources to where the need is greatest. Thus, the best-in-class speed and efficiency we at FedEx provide to our customers will be complemented by faster border clearance processes by governments.
The “Transformation: Smart Connected Border” Working Group presented opportunities to align border cities and transform them into connected communities. This concept has provisions for, Education, Energy, Trade Policy, and Services including addressing the trade needs of small business. The third Working Group, on “Creating a Shared Vision for North American Competitiveness,” is complementary to the High Level Economic Dialogue (HLED) established between the U.S. and Mexican Governments. For more details on this topic I recommend the study released recently by a Council on Foreign Relations Task Force chaired by General David Petraeus and Robert Zoellick. North America, Time for a New Focus is available on the Council’s website and was provided to all participants.
David Starling, CEO of Kansas City Southern Railway, provided a great justification during our discussions in Monterrey. Canada has just experienced a 100 year harvest, creating unprecedented demand for rail cars to transport all this grain. While freight trains cross fairly quickly and efficiently between Canada and the U.S., delays at the Mexico – U.S. border mean desperately needed rolling stock is tied-up for days waiting for government formalities to be completed.
As a next step, the findings adopted by the CEO Dialogue at this meeting will be presented for consideration to the agenda for the January meeting between President Obama and President Peña Nieto. “The Wheels are in Motion” is a fitting expression for U.S. – Mexico trade. Whether by road, rail or runway…..commerce is increasing, supply chains are aligning and opportunity is expanding for all of North America.