The San Diego business community vowed Wednesday to maintain close relations with Mexico whatever the Trump administration does to the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“We in Otay Mesa live and breathe trade,” said Alejandra Mier y Teran, executive director of the Otay Mesa Chamber of Commerce. “We need to show the world that we are very competitive and we do not want these companies to move to Asia.”
Rep. Scott Peters said he’s worried that the Trump administration doesn’t understand how NAFTA benefits companies on both sides of the border.
“We’ll continued to fight for a good strong relationship between our region and Mexico,” he said. “We understand so well the importance of our relationship with Mexico.”
Mier y Teran and Peters spoke at the third in a series of cross-border business forums sponsored by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.
The forums have drawn attention to San Diego’s status as the busiest land crossing in the world, with 50,000 vehicles and 25,000 pedestrians crossing daily. Nationwide 6 million jobs and $53 billion in economic output are dependent on trade with Mexico.
Steve Gallo, CEO of avocado oil producer Chosen Foods, said NAFTA was essential to building a $100 million business with operations in San Diego, Mexico and Canada. He said some of the import taxes discussed by the Trump administration would be a “show stopper” for his company.
Speakers stressed that products move back and forth across the border in the production process. Mier y Teran pointed out that finished products shipped from Mexico to the United States contain an average of 40 percent U.S. content, while products shipped from China have only 2 percent.
During the campaign, President Trump repeatedly dismissed NAFTA as “the worst trade deal maybe ever signed anywhere” and vowed to renegotiate or terminate the 23-year-old agreement with Mexico and Canada.
Peters said it is difficult to know what Trump will actually do because the new administration has released little legislation.
“It’s disorganized,” Peters said. “There’s not a lot of policy coming out in any kind of form toward Congress.”
Jerry Sanders, former San Diego mayor and now chairman and CEO of the chamber, said that whatever happens his organization would continue to advocate for businesses on both sides of the border.
“We can show an example of a border that works perfectly,” he said. “One where we have deep relationships on either side.”
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