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Updated Apr 27, 2013 - 11:48 pm

Arizona, Mexico: Neighbors who need each other

Most people would
be happy with a
prosperous and welleducated
next-door
neighbor poised to
become very wealthy
over the next 20 years.
Arizona has just such a
neighbor on our southern
border, the nation
of Mexico.

Mexico enjoys the fastest-growing
economy in Latin America and now boasts
the 13th largest economy in the world. By
2020, Mexico is slated to surpass Russia
and India to become the world’s seventh
largest economy. This is hardly a surprise.
Over the past several years, Mexico has
increasingly become a global player with a
strong industrial base, improving universities,
a growing workforce and increased
buying power in the world marketplace.
As the American workforce ages and our
population declines, Arizona employers will
continue to count on the Mexican workforce
– and not just day laborers and guest
workers. As Mexico’s young workforce continues
to grow and gain new skills, Mexican
engineers, legal experts, scientists, technicians,
medical researchers and business
leaders will become an even more valuable
resource for Arizona companies.

Twenty years ago, when the North American
Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was
fi rst enacted, an underlying intent was to
create a strong trade partnership among
its members to leverage the joint market
position between the U.S. and Mexico,
helping us compete with China and other
emerging Asian economies. Instead of
American companies shipping jobs to Asia,
the theory went, jobs would be “nearshored”
to Mexico where they would still
benefi t border states like Texas, California
and Arizona.

Arizona’s proximity to Mexico has allowed
us to tie into the Mexican supply chain,
increase our state’s leverage in the global
marketplace and give Arizona companies
unique opportunities for economic growth.
34% percent of the goods exported from
Arizona go to Mexico, and 35% of the
goods we import come from Mexico. In all,
cross-border trade accounted for $6.1 billion
in 2011, up nearly 16% since 2008.

While the bonds of cross-border commerce
grow stronger, governmental and
political considerations in Arizona and
across the country seem to discount the
reality of our unique economic relationship
with Mexico. Our economies have prospered
through cooperation and the shared
desire for mutual prosperity. Unfortunately,
a hard line on immigration has had a chilling
effect on cross-border trade, undoing
much of the economic progress made possible
by our close ties with Mexico.
It is for this reason that the Greater Phoenix
Economic Council helped develop The
Real Arizona Coalition, joining as a founding
member and leading its call for civility
and a solution-based dialogue in the immigration
debate. To that end, I am extremely
pleased that both Arizona Senators, John
McCain and Jeff Flake, are part of the U.S.
Senate’s “Gang of Eight” working on a bipartisan
and practical modernization effort
to reform America’s immigration woes.

Likewise, in their recent book, “Immigration
Wars: Forging an American Solution,”
former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and
his Arizona co-author Clint Bolick, of the
Goldwater Institute, see immigration reform
as an area of bipartisan consensus that is
“…constantly undermined, obviously by
strident opposition at the extremes… But
there is broad middle ground on immigration
that commands the support of the
large majority of Americans.”

It must be recognized that the Latino community
is a driving political and economic
force in Arizona and, as seen in the last
presidential election, all across the country.
As both a state and nation, we cannot
afford to create a perception that immigrants,
especially those from Mexico, are
unwelcome.

For a geographic region to fl ourish, there
must be more workers and the potential
for diversifi ed human capital. Immigrants
from Mexico and the rest of the world can
provide Arizona with that needed human
capital, bringing the critical 18-34 yearold
demographic group into our skilled
workforce, building Arizona’s buying power
and creating increased demand for Arizona
products and services. A strong partnership
with our Mexican neighbors is one of
Arizona’s best opportunities to create a
thriving economic engine.

Part of that solution must be the modernization
of the U.S. immigration system.
Obviously, unresolved immigration issues
bring an array of problems that cannot be
ignored, but crafting solutions through consensus
is the age-old formula for American
greatness. Our nation has always been improved
by immigrants seeking the freedom
to grow, prosper and innovate.

America’s achievements in science, technology,
aerospace, commerce, medicine,
research and entrepreneurship have grown
exponentially thanks to the vitality, drive
and determination of immigrants. In fact,
according to a report from the Partnership
for a New American Economy, more than
40% of the 2010 Fortune 500 companies
were founded by immigrants or their
children and employ more than 10 million
people worldwide.

As we look ahead, how Mexicans
perceive Arizona is as important as how
we perceive them. Arizona now has the
opportunity to lead the nation to a new
understanding of the importance and value
of immigration. Recognizing our interrelationship
with our Mexican neighbors is an
important step.

Barry Broome is the President and CEO of
the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and
a Member of The Real Arizona Coalition
Leadership Council.

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