NAFTA, Good deal or bad? for California, San Diego and Baja

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The results are very good, thank you the cultural impact

I have attended the MEXPORT Expo at the San Diego Convention Center, as both a journalist and an exhibitor. Nineteen ninety seven marked the ninth year of the expo which, at its inception, consisted of an ad-hoc group of local manufacturers and distributors who gathered in a vacant Otay Mesa warehouse to display their services to interested maquila (foreign owned assembly) plant managers. The fact that MEXPORT graduated from a warehouse to the air conditioned, state of the art, mult media confines of the San Diego Convention Center is proof positive that the San Diego Baja trade zone has finally arrived. The very powerful San Diego Chamber of Commerce, organizers of MEXPO, can now boast hundreds of exhibitors and over three thousand attendees.

MexportThere I was offering up my dual services as a legal and business consultant as well as those of a journalist; promoting both the BAJA SUN NEWSPAPER and my syndicated radio program MEXICO TODAY. I can’t honestly measure the results of being a MEXPORT exhibitor in dollars and cents. However, it bolstered my, oftentimes flagging, conviction that the sacrifices I have made as a pioneer promoter for trade and commerce between the U.S. and Mexico were worth it. MEXPORT 1997 confirmed my belief that, a little later than I would have liked, I am in the right place at the right time.

Less than fifteen years ago, San Diego had a provincial, small town attitude, focused primarily on defense industries and providing goods and services to support the navy and her personnel residing in San Diego. With defense cutbacks and base closures San Diego would now be up the Tijuana River without the proverbial paddle if not for the 800 Maquiladoras that have developed over the past twenty years south of the border. One half of all the earned income of the one and one half million Tijuana residents comes from these foreign owned assembly plants and those folks, along with other Baja Californianos, spend two and one half billion of it each year on San Diego goods and services.

Trade figures tell a more complete story about the importance of crossborder trade in the San Diego- Baja region. According to the San Diego Chamber, of the 7.5 billion dollars in exports that flowed through San Diego in 1996 7.2 billion went to Mexico. Imports, that flowed through San Diego, totaled eleven billion, up 23% from 1995. Of that eleven billion, $9.7 billion originated in Mexico.

Nafta trade US Canada MexicoNafta Mexico: When we look at the importance of this border to Mexico the figures are equally impressive. Mexico has 3,000 maquiladoras, employing more than 500,000 workers; over 15% of the total employment in Mexico’s manufacturing sector. Maquiladoras are by far the largest producer of foreign currency income, exceeding both the petroleum and tourism sectors in dollar revenue produced. The total number of plants in Tijuana, Ensenada, Tecate and Mexicali lead all the nation’s states in the number of plants, accounting for more than 25% of Mexico’s Maquiladoras. Reflecting the importance of this region to the international trading community Mexport attendees and exhibitors included the Japanese External Trade Organization and the Korean Trade Center. The Mexican states of: Jalisco, Veracruz, Nuevo Leon, Durango, Guanajuato, Morelos and Chiapas also exhibited at Mexport. You can’t blame them for trying to hook the Baja Maquiladoras or prospective Maquis to locate in their states.

Mexport folks reminisce with old friends who still bear the scars of the arrows they received as pioneers promoting cross border trade and cultural exchange. Survivors of the December 1994 devaluation of the peso and the excesses of the Salinas government. Veterans of the financial ups and downs for the Baja – San Diego border mingle with region newcomers to ce;ebrate at Mexport. Celebrating what appears to be a more secure future for growth and development in this fascinating border region.

Congrats to Neil Whitely Ross, V.P. of the San Diego Development Corp. the driving force for Mexport, Cindy Goforth for her competent and amicable management of the exhibitors and to all the folks that make Mexport a high energy celebration of the border’s most important economic sector.

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