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WilsonCenter: The State of Trade, Competitiveness, and Economic Well-Being in the U.S.-Mexico Border Region

Authors: Christopher E. Wilson, and Erik Lee
June 1, 2012

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Despite their overwhelming success as trade partners, the U.S. and Mexico face a new generation of obstacles in their border region. This Wilson Center report explores those obstacles.

Commerce between the United States and Mexico is one of the great—yet underappreciated—success stories of the global economy. In fact, in 2011 U.S.-Mexico goods and services trade probably reached the major milestone of one-half trillion dollars with virtually no recognition.

Unfortunately, the infrastructure and capacity of the ports of entry to process goods and individuals entering the United States has not kept pace with the expansion of bilateral trade or the population growth of the border region. Instead, the need for greater border security following the terrorist attacks of 9/11 led to a thickening of the border, dividing the twin cities that characterize the region and adding costly, long and unpredictable wait times for commercial and personal crossers alike. Congestion acts as a drag on the competitiveness of the region and of the United States and Mexico in their entirety. Solutions are needed that strengthen both border security and efficiency at the same time. The development of the 21st Century Border initiative by the Obama and Calderůn administrations has yielded some advances in this direction, but the efforts need to be redoubled.

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