World Trade Week: View from the Border

2009 World Trade Week events in the southern California/US-Mexico border region:

Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce & U.S. Commercial Service co-hosted The Americas Business Forum in Los Angeles May 27-28.

  • Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke reminded guests to tap the US & Foreign Commercial Service’s myriad resources.
  • LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa shared his vision of the city as a “21st-century Venice”, a hub of global trade.
  • Bob DeMartini, export manager of Hayward Pools provided a valuable look at winning international sales through hard work and sensible channel relationships. My favorite line: “‘Exclusivity’ means ‘Exclusive Right NOT to Sell'”. Wise advice from a channel veteran.
  • Commercial diplomats from Latin America posts recapped sector growth data and read socio-political gauges. Watch what will happen in Panama in the coming decade: the $5.2 billion Panama Canal expansion project will double the canal’s capacity, and the mammoth Colón Free Trade Zone re-exports $19 billion in goods and services into all Latin American and Caribbean countries and the US, and is set to expand.
  • Orange County Center for International Trade & U.S. Commercial Service co-hosted an excellent Mexico Trade Outlook in Santa Ana May 26.

  • Ann Bacher, Incoming Minister Counselor of Commercial Affairs for the US & Foreign Commercial Service posted impressive statistics: California businesses account for 15% of the US exports to Mexico, valued at about $20 billion. NAFTA is the world’s largest free trade area, home to 440 million people and a GDP of $15.4 trillion.
  • Despite immediate concerns about influenza, sub-standard infrastructure, and narco-violence, US suppliers should keep an eye on such long-term prospects for export growth as aviation-related services and systems, automotive manufacturing systems (GM and Chrysler aren’t the only car makers located in Mexico!), franchising, security and safety systems (more on the Merida Initiative here), and education (online and campus), the latter of which signals a more informed, motivated work force.
  • Carlos Rodriguez y Quesada, spokesman for the Mexican government’s foreign investment agency, PROMÉXICO, reported major infrastructure opportunities: $4 billion to build or upgrade 1400 kilometers of rail, maritime, including the $5 billion Punto Coronet project; highways, energy, telecomm, and manufacturing systems.
  • Have you heard about Cali-Baja Bi-National Mega-Region? The economic development agencies in San Diego and Imperial Counties and the state of Baja California announced this joint venture during World Trade Week, to market the region nationally and internationally.

    At an event near the Otay Mesa Border Crossing in San Diego, I spoke with the new field director of the US Customs and Border Protection Agency, Paul Morris. Paul noted that the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) quietly went into effect on June 1, and all systems appear to be GO.

    Finally, good news from El Paso. The head of the US-Mexico Border District Export Council, Cecilia Levine, is joining her cross-border colleagues in celebrating the opening of El Paso’s first Department of Commerce office. The new office will collaborate with the DEC as well as promote a Gold Key program tailored to US suppliers who are seeking to preserve trade with manufacturers in Mexico.

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