San Diego, Tijuana Mayors Vow to Grow BiNational Economy

As President Donald Trump was considering an executive order to renegotiate the free trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico, mayors of San Diego and Tijuana appeared together to send a message that trade agreement has helped grow the CaliBaja MegaRegion.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Tijuana Mayor Juan Manuel Gastelum met Monday along with business leaders from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

"We have a relationship that works," Faulconer said. "We have two cities that work together that cooperate, that know how to grow good, quality jobs."

President Trump has vowed to follow through with a campaign promise of stopping the movement of U.S. factories and jobs to Mexico. He's said he wants to repeal NAFTA, a 1994 trade agreement that eliminated most trade tariffs between the three countries.

Gastélum, who's been in office for two months, agreed with Faulconer's assessment that the binational partnership should be nurtured.

“When jobs are created in Tijuana, jobs are created in San Diego and vice versa,” said Gastélum.

It's more important now than ever before that the border region leaders work together, according to several business leaders who joined the mayor's news conference.

"Our Cali-Baja region has a thriving $230 billion economy thanks to NAFTA, a talented work force and strong bilateral cross collaboration,” San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Jerry Sanders said.

Recent federal efforts to enhance infrastructure and reduce border wait times has also led to significant growth, San Diego's mayor added.

“Forty percent of what we import from Mexico each year is actually American-made in the first place,” said World Trade Center San Diego Executive Director Nikia Clarke. She described how a single component in an automotive or medical device may cross the border multiple times before moving on to a customer.

“In the current, uncertain climate, leadership at the city and regional level has never been more important. What this country needs right now is people who know and understand our regional reality,” she said. “The regional reality of trade, of immigration, of co-production.”

Gastélum briefly addressed the border protests that have been occurring on weekends since the beginning of the year.

Over the weekend, traffic was blocked at the San Ysidro Port of Entry. The disruption in travel has happened each week for five weeks since Mexico's gas prices jumped 15 to 20 percent.

The government is moving forward with deregulating the oil industry, including removing some oil subsidies.

Gastélum said there's not much he could do about the issue because it's a federal matter.

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was enacted in 1994 by then-President Bill Clinton.

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