San Diego, Tijuana Leaders Push Regional Issues In Mexico City
San Diego and Tijuana politicians and business leaders are in Mexico City to promote their binational relationship, which is experiencing instability due to President Donald Trump’s quarrels with Mexican leaders about the border wall and North American Free Trade Agreement.
The mayors of San Diego and Tijuana are just two of the nearly 90 leaders on the binational delegation, which also includes participants from other parts of Baja California.
“Obviously, there’s a conversation at the national level – it’s important for us as local leaders to talk about what’s working on the local level and the fact that we have such strong ties,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer told KPBS in an interview.
He said the San Diego-Tijuana region has become the world’s largest manufacturing hub for medical devices due to cross-border collaboration. He also highlighted reduced border wait times thanks to joint investments on infrastructure for ports of entry.
Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastélum echoed the sentiment, and said the delegation is asking Mexico’s top officials not to give up on the binational relationship.
“We’re trying to tell the Mexican federal government: we can work together, but we need your help. If we get your help, then we’re together again,” Gastélum told KPBS.
Faulconer and Gastelum gave a joint press conference at the Four Seasons Hotel next to Mexico City’s famous Chapultepec Park. The room was packed amid tensions and uncertainty tied to potential new policies and NAFTA revisions that would limit cross-border trade.
The mayors had a meeting with Mexico's foreign minister Luis Videgaray Monday evening to discuss their objectives of increased cross-border collaboration. Videgaray is known for his role in inviting President Donald Trump to Mexico City when he was a candidate, an invitation many Mexicans viewed as a betrayal and which led to Videgaray resigning from his previous position of finance minister.
The delegation's participants will meet with Mexico's Congress, Mexico's Economy Ministry, the national customs agency and more to lobby for issues that affect the border region amid NAFTA renegotiations. The delegation, led annually by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, will take place through Wednesday.
“This trip and our mission for cross-border commerce are more important than ever," said Jerry Sanders, president of the chamber. “Our region is a national model for successful cross-border commerce and it is critical that we bring the voice of our region’s business community to leaders in Mexico City to keep moving forward with the projects and policies necessary for economic growth.”
Specifically, the delegation is pushing to preserve key elements of NAFTA, which they argue benefit the manufacturing and technology industries in San Diego and Tijuana. Participants also want a southbound entrance to the PedWest Port of Entry and other border infrastructure improvements.
“The most effective way of getting these issues accomplished is to go with one strong loud voice — and the delegation of close to 90 people is the best way of accomplishing that as we've seen in the past," said Paola Avila, vice president of international affairs for the chamber.
Last year, the delegation successfully advocated for improvements to PedWest on the Mexican side of the border. Previously, it convinced Mexican officials to pass legislation allowing U.S. officials to carry weapons in Mexico, a change in policy that made possible a joint pre-inspection customs facility on the Mexican side of the border.