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President’s Trip Yields New Economic Dialogue with Mexico

Tuesday, May 07, 2013
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

President Obama visited Mexico and Costa Rica last week to, among other things, strengthen bilateral trade and economic ties. The president said improved cooperation in these areas is vital to improving the competitiveness of the Western Hemisphere, which in turn can help create economic growth and jobs.

Obama and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto agreed to establish a High-Level Economic Dialogue, which will be led at the Cabinet level and meet annually beginning this fall. The HLED “is envisioned as a flexible platform intended to advance strategic economic and commercial priorities central to promoting mutual economic growth, job creation and global competitiveness.” A fact sheet from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative states that specific areas of work will include enhanced cooperation in transportation, telecommunications and energy, promoting greater two-way investment, promoting entrepreneurship, stimulating innovation, encouraging the development of human capital, and strengthening economic development along the shared border. The HLED “will also help facilitate greater alignment and cooperation … on issues of shared concern in both regional and international fora” such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum and the G-20.

In Mexico City, President Obama indicated that the new forum is part of an effort to make North America more competitive with other regions. “By us working closely together to upgrade and revamp our trade relationship we’re also in a position to project outward and start selling more goods and services around the world,” the president said. “Some of that is going to be bilateral,” like investing in roads and bridges and border crossings “so we can trade faster and cheaper” and pursuing more joint manufacturing initiatives. In addition, the HLED will allow the two sides “to say we’re aligned in projecting both to the Pacific and to the Atlantic in saying let’s make sure that we’re taking advantage of all the economic opportunities that are taking place around the world.”

Later, in remarks in Costa Rica, the president emphasized the importance of a “well-managed, well-regulated border.” He noted that in the regular leadership summits between the U.S., Canada and Mexico “a lot of our work centers around how can we continue to find ways to synchronize existing regulations so that we can speed up the movement of goods and services.” In addition, “for us to make sure that we’re facilitating trade and commerce, we’ve got to have the best infrastructure, the best portals through which people can go in an efficient, effective and systematic way that still allows for us to preserve our security and screen out those problematic elements that might cross our borders.” Obama noted that the U.S. is discussing with Mexico how the two might be able to “share some of the costs for continual infrastructure upgrades.”

The White House issued a fact sheet on trade and economic cooperation with Costa Rica, which has centered on the U.S.-Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement first implemented in 2006, but gave little indication of any future initiatives. Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla said her country wants to join the TPP but did not indicate whether it prefers to take part in the ongoing negotiations or accede once a final pact is concluded.

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