On Wednesday, Laredo Mayor Pete Saenz traveled to Washington D.C. to testify before a Senate subcommittee on trade, commerce and ports of entry. Representing the Texas Border Coalition and the city of Laredo, Saenz addressed Texas’ role in U.S. commerce. He talked with Texas Standard Host David Brown after the trip.
“Laredo is the number one inland port in America,” Saenz says. “And the number two overall of the nation. We do just alone 214 billion dollars worth of trade and the overall trade with U.S. and Mexico is $650 billion. We play a huge role, so my visit is to hopefully enlighten a couple of senators as to the importance of trade.”
The North American Free Trade Agreement’s unstable future has the mayor worried about more than just his local economy.
“It creates uncertainty and obviously the markets react to it,” Saenz says. “I’m told by economists, one in particular from Texas A&M, that if this matter is not resolved this year, come 2019, 2020, it may seem dismal.”
The recent election of Mexican President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador has added urgency to future NAFTA talks.
“NAFTA has to be modernized before the other presidency sets up there in Mexico,” he says.
At the subcommittee hearing, Saenz voiced the concern of the Texas Border Coalition about the spending being contemplated for the border wall.
“[The TBC] position has been very consistent; ‘No wall,’ “he says. “Let’s seek other ways; virtual wall, more technology, people on the ground. Keep in mind we do want a secure border. There is no question about it. It’s how we get to it without spending a horrendous amount of money. That money can be utilized for more personnel at ports of entry.”