On The Eve Of NAFTA Talks, Cautious Optimism For Arizona Businesses

By Jorge Valencia
August 15, 2017

Business leaders are bracing ahead of the trade negotiations beginning Wednesday between the U.S. and its North American neighbors.

"We are living, breathing and sleeping NAFTA right now,” said Glen Hammer, president of Arizona Chamber of Commerce.

RELATED: To hear an interview with Fronteras Desk's Jorge Valencia on KJZZ's The Show, click here.

Arizona industries want to see improvement to the trade agreement, Hammer said. That includes cotton, copper and tourism. Guillermo Valencia, chairman of the Nogales-Santa Cruz County Port Authority, in remarks addressed to the U.S. Trade Office, is recommending the new agreement include more common use of joint U.S.-Mexico customs inspections, which he said have been a success in Nogales.

"If we can get more inspectors and better technology, I'm sure we can think of a way to keep on securing our homeland, but also expediting commercial traffic," Valencia said in an interview.

But there are points of contention. The Trump administration says it's willing to withdraw from the agreement. Senators including John McCain and Jeff Flake are advocating for tweaks that benefit all parties.

"Honestly, what we're trying to do right now is to do no harm. We're trying to keep the boat afloat,” said analyst Chris Wilson at a conference with the Mexico Institute, a Washington-based think tank.

Mexican officials are also taking a tough stance.

"If the United States is not acting as a friend to Mexico, then security cooperation and all these different things that Mexico does for the United States is also going to be on the table," said Agustin Barrios Gomez, an advisor on the Mexican Council of Foreign Relations.

Officials say they want to wrap up talks within six months. They took more than two years when the original agreement was written.