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Arizona Versus Texas For Border Trade? Not Even A Contest

SAN ANTONIO - While the U.S. Federal Government remains shut down, border trade with Mexico is not. And that's good news for Texas, where the lion's share of Mexican trade flows through, much to the dismay of other border states like New Mexico and Arizona.

Since the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, Texas has seen an explosion of commerce with Mexico while other border states have been less able to capitalize on their proximity to the country.

The value of U.S.-Mexico trade and Texas-Mexico trade increased by 85.3 percent and 108.9 percent, respectively, between 2004 and 2012 according to data published by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. In 2012, U.S.-Mexico trade amounted to almost $494 billion while Texas-Mexico trade amounted to approximately $195 billion (or approximately 39.4 percent of total U.S.-Mexico trade).

Texas is dominating land-based trade with Mexico, with 67 percent of all U.S. cross-border truck traffic crossing in Texas and 86 percent of rail traffic.

But Arizona is looking to mess with Texas and increase its share of trade with Mexico.

In September, Arizona Department of Transportation Director John Halikowski and other state officials traveled to Mexico City for a series of meetings to strengthen cross-border relationships and discussed ways to improve trade traffic.

This meeting was called "unprecedented" by the ADOT, but for Texas it would have been called "business as usual." There is a long standing tradition of Texas governors paying close attention to Mexico's political figures and courting their business. That's because trade between Texas and Mexico is worth $720 million a day, according to the Texas governor's office.

But it's going to take more than meetings to change Mexico's mind about where to cross the border. And while Arizona is working on the development of border infrastructure at places like the Mariposa Port of Entry at Nogales, it continues to fall behind Texas when it comes to border crossing staffing, which is the issue if border wait times are going to be reduced - a major problem for Arizona.

Texas is getting additional Customs and Border Protection officers to staff its border crossing because the state is willing to pay for them under a "reimbursable fee agreements" pilot program. The program is underway in Texas but not in Arizona. The Texas legislature was able to pass a law that allows border businesses and cities to collect funds and pay the CBP to hire more officers.

A recent article about the Texas versus Arizona trade gap from the Arizona Republic blames politics for the lack of CPB officers at the Mariposa Port of Entry at Nogales.

The article complains that Texas is "exploiting" Arizona's border traffic problems. And that the Lone Star state is using its huge congressional delegation to win extra federal resources for its border bridges.

And that may be true, but more likely is that Texas is willing to pay for its border development, has a long standing business relationship with Mexico and has a simpatico cultural climate that embraces the Spanish language.

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