Mayor Kevin Faulconer (left) and Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum. Photo by Chris Jennewein
Mayor Kevin Faulconer (left) and Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum. Photo by Chris Jennewein

The mayors of San Diego and Tijuana said Monday they are committed to cross-border collaboration despite rising political tensions between the United States and Mexico.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and new Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastélum met in Faulconer’s office and then addressed press from both sides of the border.

“Our partnership with Mexico is one of our greatest strengths,” said Faulconer. “At the end of the day, we have more in common with our neighbor Tijuana than not.”

Faulconer repeated his remarks in Spanish, then turned the podium over to Gastélum, who has been in office for just two months.

“We are separated by borders, but united by our common goals,” Gastélum said in English. “When jobs are created in Tijuana, they are created in San Diego as well.”

The meeting comes less than a week after President Donald Trump apparently suggested in a call with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto that the United States might use its military to control drug cartels in Mexico. Both leaders later denied that was the intent.

Trump has also begun extending the wall between the two countries, and has vowed to renegotiate or terminate the North American Free Trade Agreement, on which business on both sides depend.

During questions after the statements, Faulconer declined to specifically address Trump’s actions, saying instead, “We can’t control what happens outside our cities, but I know this, we will continue our story of collaboration, our story of friendship.”

The two mayors plan to renew a memorandum of understanding in the next few weeks spelling out how the two municipal governments will cooperate. Department directors of the two cities meet frequently under the current agreement.

Former mayor and now Chamber of Commerce CEO Jerry Sanders described San Diego and Tijuana as a “model cross-border region” with a combined $230 billion economy. He noted that chamber members would soon make their 12th annual trip to Mexico City to reinforce the bi-national relationship.

Nikia Clarke, executive director of the World Trade Center San Diego, said manufacturing processes are tightly integrated between the two cities, with products passing back and forth multiple times during assembly.

“Forty percent of what we import from Mexico each year is actually American made,” she said. “What this county needs right now are people who understand the regional reality,

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.