One of the bright spots of the economic malaise of the past few years has been the strong growth in trade between the United States and Mexico. Two-way trade has surged from $306 billion in 2009 to $461 billion last year. Month-over-month figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show this trend continuing into 2012. Texas leads all states in surface trade with Mexico.
The rising tide of commerce is good for consumers and producers in both countries.
But as Express-News business writer David Hendricks recently detailed, bottlenecks are threatening to choke off the vitality of U.S.-Mexico trade. More lanes, bridges and inspection stations are needed for the trucks that carry 85 percent of the goods that move across the border.
The money needed for border infrastructure isn’t likely to be found anytime soon in debt-ridden Washington or, for that matter, in Mexico City. Border cities, the state of Texas and the private sector are willing to contribute to such projects, which could be financed by the San Antonio-based North American Development Bank.
But, as Hendricks reported, the U.S. government agencies responsible for building and staffing border trade facilities — the General Services Administration and Customs and Border Protection — are barred from using funds other than those appropriated by Congress.
Bipartisan legislation introduced by Rep. Henry Cuellar, R-Laredo, and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, would end this prohibition and enable federal-state and public-private cooperation on trade infrastructure projects.
The Cross-Border Trade Enhancement Act of 2012 offers a sensible solution to this impasse. Washington’s profligacy and dysfunction have made it difficult to find funding for worthy federal projects, including those that expand international commerce.
If Congress won’t invest in the infrastructure needed to alleviate the constraints on U.S.-Mexico trade, it should at least make it possible for states, municipalities and private entities to do so.