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San Diego And Baja California Leaders Celebrate New Trade Deal With Canada

California leaders celebrate deal to save NAFTA at JW Marriott, Sept. 30, in Washington D.C.
Jean Guerrero
California leaders celebrate deal to save NAFTA at JW Marriott, Sept. 30, in Washington D.C.
San Diego And Baja California Leaders Celebrate New Trade Deal With Canada
San Diego and Baja California Leaders Celebrate New Trade Deal With CanadaGUEST:Jean Guerrero, border reporter, KPBS News

Our top story on Midday edition there is joy among the members of San Diego's Mission to Washington D.C. trade delegation. Many of the 140 business and civic leaders from San Diego and Tijuana cheered upon hearing about the new trade deal that saved most of NAFTA making sure the structure of NAFTA remained in place was the first order of business for the Chamber of Commerce's 12th annual mission to Washington DC. But it wasn't the only one. Joining me now from Washington is Kate PBS border reporter Jean Guerrero. Jean welcome. Hey morning. Now tell us more about the reaction of the delegation to news of the new United States Mexico Canada agreement. So there's a lot of excitement. I mean yesterday morning over breakfast everybody was cheering and applauding and making jokes about how the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce presence in D.C. with what ahead had finally convinced officials to get their act in order in regards the agreement. There is a lot of skepticism with the way that the treaty is being portrayed by the president himself. You know he has said that the original Naft was terrible at the worst trade deal ever made and that he's essentially fixed that with us. Yea but the business leaders and community leaders who are part of this delegation in D.C. They came here to advocate for us because they believed in the original NAFA because they had benefited. There's a lot of companies in San Diego and the Baja region in manufacturing and a biotech in the medical industry who have who heavily rely on this treaty on free trade with Mexico and wanted to make sure that it was going to stay in place. So they're happy that it and it's been updated for the digital era. It increases the percent of auto parts that must be made in North America. It includes new protections for environment intellectual property and small businesses. But overall it's really an expansion of the existing treaty and an update. Could this new trade agreement affect illegal immigration from Mexico so that it's one of the things that I was interested in hearing some of the experts opinions about because we do know that the original treaty was widely expanded opportunities in a variety of industries for both Mexico and the United States. It really obliterated opportunities for Mexico small farmers in the countryside and what we saw in the late 90s was a massive wave of illegal immigration from Mexico to the United States because essentially Mexico's small farmers found it impossible to compete with the heavily heavily subsidized agriculture industries in the United States. So I wanted to know does this new treaty do anything to address that shortcoming in the original NAFTA. And what I what I'm hearing is that it doesn't that more. While farmers are getting the short end of the stick and that we may continue to see illegal immigration from Mexico as a result of the low opportunities in the rural sector. But it is worth noting that illegal immigration from Mexico is still at record lows and most of them immigration ever seen right now in Central America. Well now that this central concern about NAFTA or the new U.S. embassy agreement is resolved what else is on the delegation's agenda. Now it's really about lobbying members of Congress still must be approved by the legislative bodies of all three countries U.S. Mexico and Canada. Now the chamber is going to be lobbying members of Congress to make sure that this treaty passes and to make sure that it passes in the form that they would like. Another thing that they're here advocating for are expansion to ports of entry infrastructre and they're continuing to lobby now for expansion. The Calexico Mexicali port of entry for a toll operated port of entry called Otaheite to over A.I.M.. And one thing was interesting is they actually met with Mexico's ambassador to the United States today. That was one of the higher profile meetings that they had. And he was saying that because as the new treaty because if you ask them yes there's going to be increased trade between the U.S. and Mexico and the increased trade means that we're going to need more more ports of entry and more lanes greater technology to process things more quickly to avoid some of the backlogs that we see right now in terms of people waiting for hours. Has there been any discussion about the border infrastructure issues or Tijuana River Valley sewage or is it all just about trade. You met with BP lessons in border protection. Yesterday that meeting was off the record so I can't talk too much about the particulars of what happened in that meeting but I did interview Mayor Kevin Faulkner after the meeting and told me that BP promised hundreds of new personnel for the ports of entry in San Ysidro and for the airport in 2019 hoping to ease the flow of people and goods and they and they also talked about the environmental issues that was between San Diego and Tijuana. That's something that the Mexican ambassador here today was saying that he's going to continue to push for funding to address the sewage spill of those in Tijuana and also some infrastructure in the United States to try to capture the flows that occur into the Tijuana River Valley. So it's really a lot of issues that the delegation has been trying to make progress on here today. Does this mission to Washington wrap up this week. It does. So they are here tomorrow and I'm going to be following up with the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce at the end of the trip to see to see what they believe are the biggest takeaways and the biggest successes of this trip. And then we'll be speaking to you about it. I have been speaking with PBS border reporter Jane Guerrero in Washington D.C. with the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce's 12th annual mission to Washington. Jean thank you. Thank you.

UPDATE: 4:00 p.m., Oct. 1, 2018:

President Trump says the North American Free Trade Agreement was "the worst trade deal ever made," and that he’s helped forge something new: the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

But San Diego and Baja business and community leaders in Washington D.C. who are celebrating the revised deal told KPBS that it is actually very similar to NAFTA. It’s just strengthened and updated for the digital age.


The new deal, which still needs approval from the three countries' legislative bodies, increases the percentage of auto parts that must be made in the North American region and includes new protections for the environment and intellectual property.

San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer was among the leaders who traveled to DC with the delegation to lobby for the trilateral deal.

“Free trade is incredibly important to us in San Diego," Faulconer told KPBS, adding that the original NAFTA created tens of thousands of jobs in the region. "That's a strength we use to compete with other regions around the world –– so we want to keep that going."

Trump had threatened to move forward on a bilateral agreement without Canada, saying the country was being too difficult in negotiations. But Canadian Embassy representatives told members of the San Diego delegation that Trump’s rhetoric was misleading and that the speed of the negotiations was unusually fast for a treaty this wide-reaching.

The delegation members in that meeting, including Mexico's Consul General in San Diego Marcela Celorio, told the Canadian Embassy representatives that Mexican business leaders in San Diego really value their relationships with Canada.


Celorio said she thinks the change of NAFTA's name was to "send the message that NAFTA is no longer in place, but I think that for the common people that have been acquainted with NAFTA for so many years, it's going to keep on being NAFTA, even though we can call it U.S.-M-Kah, or maybe 'Camexus' in Spanish."

Duncan Wood, director of the Wilson Center's Mexico Institute, spoke to the delegation on Monday evening, saying that the new deal "reflects the needs of a 21st century economy" by expanding beyond agriculture and manufacturing to services and digital trade.

"President Trump has actually done us a huge favor," Wood said. "He opened up the conversation over NAFTA in a way that a disruptor should. I wouldn't have done it in the same way he did, but let's face it, when he opened up the can of worms ... by putting (the agreement) under threat, he succeeded in rallying supporters."

VIDEO: San Diego and Baja California Leaders Celebrate New Trade Deal With Canada

Original Story:

Dozens of San Diego and Baja California business and community leaders cheered over breakfast Monday morning in Washington, D.C., after learning the U.S. had reached a late-night deal to save the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The new deal, reached just before a midnight deadline imposed by the U.S., will be called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

Read Agreement Full Text

The delegation, led by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, traveled to Washington to lobby for a new version of the trilateral agreement amid growing concerns the U.S. was going to sign a bilateral agreement with Mexico, excluding Canada. The original trilateral NAFTA has long been touted as a boon to the economies of the San Diego-Tijuana mega-region.

“In the end, it was a good outcome — it would have been disastrous for it to be just the U.S. and Mexico,” said Paola Avila, vice president of international business affairs for the chamber. “I say disastrous because you would’ve been doing away with a trilateral agreement and replacing it with something that’s less.”

RELATED: Canada-US Reach Deal To Stay In Trade Pact With Mexico

The deal still needs Congressional approval. Avila said the goal of the trip will now be to “talk about implementation — what does this agreement mean, how long do businesses have to adhere to new regulations, what will the transition look like and lobbying members of Congress — again, this is not a done deal.”

A timeline of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement is shown.
United States Trade Representative
A timeline of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement is shown.

The deal includes updates to “help the ease of trade,” said Avila, including the elimination of outdated paper transactions, and a new chapter on environmental protections which is expected to help the Tijuana River Valley.

President Trump on Monday morning called it a "great deal," tweeting that it "solves the many deficiencies and mistakes in NAFTA, greatly opens markets to our Farmers and Manufacturers, reduces Trade Barriers to the U.S. and will bring all three Great Nations together in competition with the rest of the world."

Trump also added, "Congratulations to Mexico and Canada!"

Members of the delegation will be meeting with representatives for the Canadian Ministry and other leaders through Wednesday.