Action needed to aid US-Mexico border trade-report

ASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. business group Wednesday called for the United States and Mexico to tackle issues ranging from drug violence to aging roads and bridges that hamper trade along the countries’ 2,000-mile border.

“These obstacles cost the U.S. and Mexican economy more than $7 billion dollars a year in gross economic output and an estimated 62,000 jobs,” Thomas Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told reporters.

The group, working with the American Chamber of Commerce of Mexico, called in a report for increased funding under the U.S. government’s Merida Initiative to help Mexico fight violent criminal gangs.

“No factor is more important to future investment, economic growth and job creation than security and law and order,” Donohue said.

Trade between the United States and Mexico has grown under the North American Free Trade Agreement, which went into force in 1994, to about $400 billion a year.

The U.S. Chamber expects the amount of foreign freight entering the United States to quadruple over the 30 years, requiring an expansion of ports, bridges and other infrastructure to keep pace.

“It’s going to take more resources from the federal government but there’s also a pool of about $190 billion worth of private capital that can be tapped once we get the government to do some of the early entry,” Donohue said.

The report recommended steps to reduce congestion at the border, including better use of traffic-monitoring technology and a “trusted shipper program” that would cut down on border delays for qualified companies.

A plan to build a modern, efficient 21st century border also should include immigration reform to allow Mexican “guest workers” to fill jobs in the United States and reduce the incentive for illegal crossings, the report said. (Reporting by Doug Palmer; editing by Cynthia Osterman)