Tuesday, April 11, 2006

San Antonio's Free trade Alliance promotes Corridor to China

Mexican States Want Closer Ties with Far East

April 10, 2006

Frontera NorteSur
Copyright 2006

Mexican and U.S. officials and businessmen are stepping up contacts with China and other Asian nations in high-stakes bids to expand economic relations. Trade missions from Baja California, Chihuahua, Michoacan and Texas all have recently flown to meetings and tours in the emerging global economic powerhouses of the Far East.

Headed by Chihuahua Governor Jose Reyes Baeza, a state delegation of cabinet members, elected officials and university leaders journeyed to China late last month to strike new business, industrial and tourist agreements. Prior to the trip, Alejandro Cano Richaud, Chihuahua state secretary for industrial development, said Chihuahua representatives were interested in examining the Shanghai free trade zone, and exploring the possibility of having Chinese manufactured products finished in Ciudad Juarez before exporting them to the United States. "We don't see China as a competitor but as an ally," Cano said.

As a result of the trip, Chihuahua officials signed several academic, research and business development accords, including pledges to increase language-learning exchanges between Chinese and Mexican students.

In an almost simultaneous Asian tour, Baja California Governor Eugenio Elorduy Walther led a group of businessmen and state officials to China and South Korea for a round of dealmaking on investment and tourism. China has recently emerged as a hot, new source of tourists visiting Mexico. Gov. Elorduy announced that an unnamed South Korean company agreed to invest US$40 million in a new Baja California factory dedicated to the production of televisions and computers. The plant is expected to employ about 1,200 workers.

Not missing out on the trade tour circuit, members of the Free Trade Alliance from San Antonio, Texas, and officials from Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan, planned a joint China trip the first week of April to promote their emerging trade mega-corridor that stretches from the Pacific to the U.S. Midwest via the Kansas City Southern Railroad. In San Antonio, the old Kelly Air Force Base has been transformed into a transportation intermodal site to handle the anticipated upsurge in trade-driven traffic.

Geared up for a massive influx of Chinese imports, the port of Lazaro Cardenas is undergoing a US$200 million container ship facility uplift paid for by Hutchison Port Holdings. Hector Carranza, the port's business director, said the Michoacan coastal city is poised for expanded action. "We are ready. The port is ready," Carranza insisted. Given Lazaro Cardenas' new strategic importance, Mexican officials have reacted sharply to recent labor strife in the port, warning investors could be driven away.

Their eyes fixated on the expanding Chinese star, Mexican officials are now considering opening an eastern-oriented Pacific port in Baja California to help handle the burgeoning trade volume. Located about 150 miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border, Punta Colonet is emerging as a possible super port. Carlos Jauregui, the executive director of the Port of Ensenada said construction of the port could begin in 2008 and be completed by 2012. Jauregui estimated the facility could cost about US$5 billion to build, including a rail link to the United States.

Sources: El Diario de Juarez, April 1 and 5, 2006. Articles by Gabriel Simental and the Notimex news agency. La Cronica (Mexicali), April 2, 2006. Articles by Edgar Lopez and editorial staff. Norte, March 28, 2006. Article by Hugo Hernandez Jauregui. Albuquerque Journal/Associated Press, April 6, 2006.

Frontera NorteSur (FNS)
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico

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