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San Diego/Tijuana Mega-Region Drives and Expands Bilateral Trade

April 20, 2015

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John Andersen is the International Trade Administration’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Western Hemisphere.

Last week, I traveled to San Diego and Tijuana to meet with companies on both sides of the border and learn about the dynamic coproduction in the U.S.-Mexico border region. More than $1.5 billion in trade crosses the U.S.-Mexico border every day and much of that value is generated in the largest metropolis between San Diego and Tijuana.

While in Tijuana I toured the Welch Allyn plant, a medical device manufacturing facility that sources more than 85 percent of its inputs from the United States. The company, which is headquartered in upstate New York, selected its Baja California location to be close to its largest consumer market, North America.

While in Mexico, I also met with the dynamic binational Smart Border Coalition, a group that works diligently to improve efficiencies along the various border crossings between California and Baja California. In our discussion, we talked about how we could work together better to hasten the development of important cross-border land ports of entry, including the Xpress Airport facility that will provide U.S. citizens with direct access to the Tijuana International Airport; the proposed Otay Mesa East crossing, which will double commercial vehicle crossing capacity in San Diego County; and reactivation of the desert railroad line that will allow regional manufacturers to export their heavy manufactured goods at a lower cost. The U.S. Department of Commerce will help facilitate these projects within the U.S. government border management process, and binationally with Mexico, to increase border capacity at new and existing ports of entry.

After returning to San Diego via the San Ysidro port of entry, the busiest land border of entry in the world, I met with several U.S. companies based in San Diego County to understand and address their export concerns. One of the companies I spoke with at length, Taylor Guitars,   successfully exports their products to several markets overseas.

Taylor Guitars shared that they have recently been battling counterfeit products imported from China. I explained that one of the Obama administration’s top priorities is to expand free trade agreements, which will establish common standards and protections for U.S. companies. Free trade agreements, not only reduce trade barriers, allowing U.S. products to enter foreign markets at lower prices, but they also ensure that U.S. companies have recourse to combat corrupt practices of competitors and provide protections for intellectual property rights for U.S. companies.

The administration is currently negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, which will link the United States with growing markets in Latin America and Asia. It is estimated that in the next two decades, nearly 50 percent of the world’s economic growth will come from the Asia-Pacific region, yielding almost one billion new middle-class consumers.

The businesses I spoke with in San Diego were supportive of the administration’s goal to expand U.S. free trade agreements and understood the importance of Trade Promotion Authority which will allow the executive branch to secure the best trade deals possible for U.S. companies. The companies expressed their hope that TPP would enable them to expand their exports into the rapidly growing Asia-Pacific region and help them to better protect their intellectual property.

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