Ebola Threat: Manageable or Magnified

Dr. Peter Piot, one of the co-discoverers of the Ebola virus, sounded an alarm back in July warning that a “mega crisis” could occur unless response was comprehensive and swift enough. He was initially criticized for his strong reaction but said he “would rather be accused of overreacting.” He recently reaffirmed his warning, saying he was “on target.”

Now that Ebola is in Europe, I have to wonder how long it will be before politicians want to close the southern border if the virus shows up in the Americas. The Weekly Standard, Department of Defense News reported on Wednesday, “Marine Corps Gen. John F. Kelly, the commander of the U.S. Southern Command, fears that the self-evident ability of the American medical system to successfully cope with Ebola will lead millions of Central American residents to make refugees of themselves and head toward the United States.” Granted, we were caught flatfooted and about three months too late on preventing Ebola from arriving in the United States, but now that it is here and if it arrives in Mexico, then is it not the time to turn to our neighbors, instead of on our neighbors?

Lesson One: React and Respond ASAP to Recover Completely

With all the hysteria about ISIS coming across the southern border into the U.S. and the upped concern about a doubling contraction time of less than three weeks for Ebola in West Africa, perspective for if and when it shows up in Mexico is warranted. During the Influenza scare in Mexico, I remember flying freely from the U.S. to Canada and from the U.S to Mexico. Public safety officials’ concern was not so much who was coming into Mexico infected with influenza—as it had already arrived but rather who might have it and might spread it if they were to leave Mexico.  All passengers were screened by an automated mass thermometer as we approached our gates.  Those of us (and I was one) who had an elevated temperature (a possible early warning of infection) were asked by the technician to undergo a more thorough examination by a nurse and some of us (not me that time) were sent to a doctor.  Indeed, some of us missed our flights and some were detained for treatment. This was a small inconvenience to pay for pandemic vigilance.

During the episode, all schools, many sporting events, and some businesses were closed by the Government of Mexico at a real cost to the nation of millions of dollars of lost productivity.  Again, that was a relatively small price to pay early in the progression of steps to contain a contagious disease that did seem at the time either more transmittable or virulent or both.  Today the U.S. owes Mexico a huge “¡Gracias!” for setting an example, even though nothing more serious than a normal flu season flu ensued. But seemingly for months, the origin was thought to be swine farms in southeastern Mexico.  This proved to be false, but the misperception lingers even today.

Lesson two: Don’t accuse and not assist.

Neighbors look out for each other when their common health or any other security is involved.  When former President Calderon flew to Japan over California and saw widespread wildfires, he immediately called then Governor Schwarzenegger to offer his firefighters.  “Your state is on fire,” he said, “What can I do?”

I often wonder, given the extraordinarily wide charge given to Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) (the ones that clear you to fly when you come back to the U.S. from overseas, not TSA that clears you to fly within the U.S.), if we can expect them to monitor regular migration, drug and contraband trafficking, “first in nation” invasive as well as smuggled plants and animals, and other threats, whether we are asking too much for them to manage crowds of tourists and travelers while anticipating diseases symptoms at the same time. A more effective alternative may be for CBP to communicate and collaborate with their southern counterparts, to insure shared monitoring and equal prevention tactics.

The show must go on

While the necessary steps to prevent the spread of Ebola must be taken and lessons learned from Mexico’s reaction to the last public health scare, our southern border must continue with business as usual. Trade and tourism between the U.S and Mexico is too valuable to be jeopardized.  Measured at over a half trillion (yes with a T) dollars annually, the two industries create and maintain millions of jobs here and there assuring mass net migration stays at zero.  And, as important as the joint advanced manufacturing platform that the three NAFTA nations have built, trade and tourism allows North America to maintain its competitiveness on the world marketplace.

Ducheny Receives Ohtli Award

NARP board member Denise Moreno Ducheny was recently recognized by the Government of Mexico with the Ohtli Award, the highest recognition awarded by Mexico to U.S. citizens who have contributed in an exceptional manner to the development of the Mexican community abroad. Past recipients of this award include: President of the Educational Fund of NALEO, Arturo Vargas, Editor of “La Opinión” in Los Angeles, California, Mónica Lozano, President of the National Council of La Raza, Janet Murguía (2009), former Governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, and President of the Hispanic Leadership Institute, Dr. Juan Andrade Jr. (2010).

Denise Moreno Ducheny is a retired California senator from San Diego, serving in the state Assembly from 1994-2000 and then elected to state Senate in 2002. She will receive the award during the annual conference of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials later this month in San Diego. For additional information, please see click here to read the NALEO press release.

NARP congratulates Denise for her outstanding work and this much-deserved recognition.

Uncommon Dialogue: U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Water Issues Conference Overview

NARP Portfolio Director Rick Van Schoik gave the opening keynote address at Stanford University’s Uncommon Dialogue: U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Water Issues conference June 1-June 3. Rick’s address, “Transborder Water Issues Governance (TWIG),” covered the basis of transborder water governance, including equitable utilization and shared benefits. He pointed out that society is only beginning to understand water’s true value and will continue to increase its appreciation for it under various global climate change (GCC) scenarios. He called out decision makers for ignoring water issues related to climate change, but affirmed that if sustainable, science-derived principles and insights are applied to the overall process, a water ethos that truly appreciates the resource at its essence may be adopted.  To learn more, click here for Rick’s full presentation.

The conference was organized by the Bill Lane Center and the Water in the West Program at Stanford Law School and featured panels such as “Groundwater in the Frontier,” “Binational Water/Energy Nexus Issues: the California-Baja California region,” and “The Colorado River.”  The overall takeaway was that food, water and energy are intricately connected and move beyond borders. To see a full list of panelists, please see the agenda. To view pictures, click here.

Recap: U.S.-Mexico Regional Economic Competitiveness Forum (Arizona, Sonora, and Sinaloa)

This past Friday we held the second of four U.S.-Mexico Regional Economic Competitiveness Forums (RECF) in Rio Rico, Arizona together with our partners, USAID Mexico, the Council of State Governments-West, the Border Legislative Conference and the Mexico Institute/Woodrow Wilson Center.

Similar to the California-Baja California RECF, the Arizona-Sonora-Sinaloa forum consisted of highly informative, interactive panels and afternoon break-out sessions, where both speakers and attendees participated in the sharing of insight/recommendations on the regional economy, ports of entry management and infrastructure planning and connecting the region to the global economy. Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva, U.S. House of Representatives and California State Senator Lou Correa, Chair of the Border Legislative Conference welcomed all participants with opening remarks, and the following panels proceeded:

Panel I: Challenges and Opportunities to Move People and Product Securely and Efficiently Along the Arizona – Sonora Border Region

Moderator: Luis Ramirez, President Ramirez Advisors Inter-National


  • Lance Jungmeyer, President, Fresh Produce Association of the Americas
  • Alfonso Soto Parada, President, Maquiladora Association of Sonora
  • William Brooks, Director of Field Operations, Tucson, U.S. Customs and Border Protection

In this panel, speakers discussed the importance of rethinking how the border affects supply chains (in terms of infrastructure, technology and human capital); stated the challenges of insufficient infrastructure/mismanagement of the border (stressing the costs of border crossing wait times); and highlighted the potential of the large Arizona-Sonora ports of entry as well as the smaller ones.

Panel II: Promoting Regional Competitiveness

Moderator: Representative T.J. Shope, Arizona House of Representatives


  • Ricardo Brown, Investment Promoter, Economic Development Council for Sonora
  • Bruce Wright, Associate Vice President, Tech Parks Arizona, University of Arizona
  • Manuel Hopkins Ruiz, Director of Economic Development, City of Nogales, Sonora

Panelists’ stated that what distinguishes the AZ-Sonora/Sinaloa region is agro-business (importing the most amount of fresh produce from Mexico through Nogales), the mining industry (especially with a growing global demand for copper) and aerospace (where tech parks are leading the way for further innovation).

Luncheon Keynote speaker: Ana Luisa Fajer, Director General for North America, Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Ana Luisa Fajer, addressed the audience at the luncheon, discussing Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affair’s commitment to the border region; in appreciation for the key role it plays in increasing economic competitiveness for the United States and Mexico. She explained the priorities of the U.S.-Mexico High-Level Economic Dialogue (HLED), including student exchange and collaboration through MUSEIC and FOBESSI. Fajer asserted that, “(we) should be thinking in North American terms: using education and innovation to allow us to be more competitive.” She ended her talk with recommendations to seek out:

  1. Technology and government management systems
  2. More efficient transportation infrastructure
  3. Economic clusters and logistics corridors
  4. Alternate funding sources for border infrastructure

Panel III: Arizona – Sonora Trade Corridor

Moderator: Diputada Mireya de Lourdes Almada Beltrán, Sonora State Legislature

  • Marisa Walker, Senior Vice President, Strategic Planning & Infrastructure, Arizona Commerce Authority
  • Werner G. Cota Lopez, Confederation of Agriculture Associations, State of Sinaloa
  • David Careaga, General Director, Association of Farmers of Rio Culiacan
  • Russ Jones, Vice Chair, Border Trade Alliance and Former Representative, Arizona House of Representatives

This panel focused on the need for infrastructure, adequate staffing, and efficiency of border crossing for trade flows to run through.

Other distinguished participants included diplomats, business leaders and government officials, i.e.:

  • Mayor Arturo Garino, City of Nogales, Arizona
  • Mayor Douglas Nicholls, City of Yuma
  • Councilmember Reynaldo Gutiérrez, City of Nogales, Sonora
  • Representative Stefanie Mach, Arizona
  • Representative Victoria Steele, Arizona
  • Representative Macario Saldate IV, Arizona
  • Representative Rosanna Galbadon, Arizona

Our executive summary of the proceedings is forthcoming.  Also, Linda Valdez, columnist at the Arizona Republic, referenced the forum in her article, “Seal the Border? No. Staff the ports!” To read the article, click here. Lastly, to view pictures of the event, please click here.

Thank you to all who worked with us to make this forum a success. We look forward to continuing the series in Texas. Please check back in with us for more detailed information regarding the Laredo and El Paso forums and consider joining us.

Arizona’s Emerging and Multidimensional Commercial Relationship with Mexico

We are about to get underway here in Rio Rico for our second U.S.-Mexico Regional Economic Competitiveness Forum. As we head into summer, we have been reflecting upon how 2014 is shaping up to be an extremely interesting year in Arizona on the issue of international trade. It is remarkable to see a number of developments around the state coming together at more or less the same time. They include the following:

  • The City of Phoenix issued a request for proposals earlier this year for a trade development specialist to be based in Mexico City.
  • The state of Arizona also plans to open an office in Mexico City.
  • Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild was just awarded the Ohtli award by the Government of Mexico.
  • The state’s associations of government are beginning discussions with mayors in northern Sonora on creating a “megaregion” modeled on the CaliBaja megaregion comprising San Diego, Tijuana, the Imperial Valley and the Mexicali area.
  • The Joint Planning and Advisory Council of the state of Arizona’s associations of government is promoting an idea to make the entire state of Arizona accessible to Mexican Border Crossing Card holders, rather than just area between the border and Tucson.
  • Discussions continue with ProMéxico (the trade and investment promotion agency for the Government of Mexico) on a potential presence in Arizona for the agency.

Taken together this is really quite a remarkable turn of events, when you consider where the state was in 2010 in the wake of the highly controversial SB1070.

Beyond its diplomatic challenges with Mexico, Arizona’s current round of engagement with Mexico is linked to a realignment of the state’s economic priorities following the Great Recession. Much of this engagement proceeds from the assumption that increased international trade has the potential to drive future high-value added economic activity and create more high-paying jobs for the state’s citizens.

Activity around trade in the state takes place largely on four distinct yet related planes. The first plane is with our neighbors, Sonora and Sinaloa, which Southern Arizona economic stakeholders in particular continue to cultivate as vital, go-to customers in terms of crossborder trade (shopping, fruit and vegetable distribution, real estate).

The second plane of trade engagement is currently developing, is more long-distance in nature and comprises a type of trade diplomacy with political leaders and federal agencies in Mexico City (which makes sense, as Mexico’s tendency toward centralization is strong in all matters, including economic matters).

The third plane of engagement is in its infancy and has to do with linking existing Arizona companies as suppliers to the rapidly developing automotive and aerospace clusters in Mexico’s Bajío region.

The fourth plane of engagement is almost fully conceptual at this point but consists in cultivating Mexican foreign direct investment (FDI) in Arizona as Texas has successfully done. Currently, Mexican FDI in Arizona is utterly minimal but real movement on that plane would be an indicator that the state has moved into a new era.

All of Arizona’s rethinking and repositioning on trade with Mexico–its leading commercial partner–is taking place as a host of other U.S. states and cities as well as other nations intensify their presence in Mexico as that country enters an amazing and really unprecedented phase in its history of rapid and far-reaching economic reforms and international engagement.

What this means is that Arizona can no longer rely on geography as a natural advantage and instead must move toward diversifying its trading and diplomatic approach with Mexico, one of the world’s most important economies. Arizona leaders also need to understand that their discourse and policies on immigration are and will continue to be fundamentally tied to issues of economic development and particularly trade diplomacy, by Mexican partners. The state needs a safe and efficient border with Mexico but that approach in and of itself will need to be contemplated with a broader vision of all that it means to be fully pursuing a deep and sustainable commercial relationship with one of the planet’s most important emerging economies.

California-Baja California Regional Economic Competitiveness Forum Recap


(Left to right) Senator Correa listens to Chris Wilson, Mexico Institute, Erik Lee, NARP Executive Director, and Rick Van Schoik, NARP Portfolio Director, present findings from break-out sessions

We are delighted to be working with a number of excellent partners on the U.S.-Mexico Regional Economic Competitiveness Forums (RECF), including USAID Mexico, the Council of State Governments-West, the Border Legislative Conference and the Mexico Institute/Woodrow Wilson Center. The series of four regional economic competitiveness analyzes the future of the U.S.-Mexico border economy with a focus on the following border sub-regions: California – Baja California; Arizona – Sonora; Texas -Chihuahua- New Mexico; and Texas– Coahuila- Nuevo Leon- Tamaulipas.

Together with these abovementioned partners we kicked off the series in San Diego on March 21 with a reception at the Marriott Marquee in downtown San Diego on March 21, 2014. Keynote speakers and honorees included Remedios Gómez Arnau, Consul General of Mexico in San Diego, and Andrew S.E. Erickson, U.S. Consul General in Tijuana. The following morning, key business, government and other stakeholders convened to begin the California-Baja California RECF. Panels included discussions on the regional economy in terms of competitiveness and innovation (panelists from the Tijuana Economic Development Corporation, the Port of San Diego, U.S. Commercial Service, and the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation); ports of entry management and infrastructure planning (panelists from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the San Diego Association of Governments, the Imperial County Transportation Commission, the San Diego – Tijuana Smart Border Coalition and Project-21 / Frontera-21 of the U.S.-Mexico Border Mayors Association) ;and cross-border economic clusters (panelists from the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, the Cali Baja Mega Region Initiative, the Institute for Regional Development at ITESM).

Both speakers and attendees participated in afternoon break-out sessions to gather more detailed input on the regional economy, ports of entry management and infrastructure planning and connecting the Californias to the global economy. Click here to read the findings from the forum. To view more photos of the event, please click here.

We look forward to the second forum which will take place this Friday, May 16th, in Rio Rico, Arizona. Please consider joining us in participating in this forum or the following forums in Texas.


Launching the U.S.- Mexico Regional Economic Competitiveness Forums 2014

The North American Research Partnership, together with USAID Mexico, the Council of State Governments West, the U.S. Congressional Border Caucus, and the Mexico Institute/Woodrow Wilson Center, is looking forward to the launch of the Regional Economic Competitiveness Forums (RECF) this week (March 20-21) in San Diego, California. The RECF are aimed at convening key regional stakeholders, to promote the exchange of information on strategies to improve the border region’s competitiveness, and develop local, state legislative, and executive branch recommendations to achieve the goals outlined during the events. Four regional economic competitiveness forums are planned and will be targeted along the following border sub-regions: California – Baja California; Arizona – Sonora; Texas -Chihuahua- New Mexico; and Texas– Coahuila- Nuevo Leon- Tamaulipas. These forums will take place in the spring and summer of 2014 and will build on the work completed during the first round of regional economic forums that took place in 2005, which led to the development of a white paper titled “A New Vision for Trade along the U.S. – Mexico Border Region.”

Erik Lee, NARP Executive Director, Rick Van Schoik, NARP Portfolio Director, and Christopher Wilson, Associate at the Mexico Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, have co-authored a thought paper summarizing the key topic points (Thought Paper RECF March 2014). The input gathered from each regional forum will be published in the weeks following each regional forum, but will also form part of a comprehensive report that will be presented to local, state and federal officials from both Mexico and the United States this fall in Washington D.C.

For more information and to register for the upcoming forum, please click here. 

Leaders pass test

The North American Leaders Summit was a success–despite many attempts to paint the new TPP trade deal as an even dirtier word than NAFTA. For many of us, it’s difficult to remember 20 years ago before NAFTA but Mexico had a number of issues of economic and political stability that it does not have today. Part of this can be attributed to NAFTA. While the negotiations and press conference this week showed each nation wanting its own means and ends, the North American region, especially as compared to the trans-Pacific region, won by remaining the most “competitive and dynamic” continent in the world. The dynamism of energy development and subsequent energy security was rarely mentioned but was the subtext to work in other areas, including everything from trade to climate to border cooperation.

Is Arizona stepping back into the game in Mexico City?

Arizona House Ad Hoc International Trade and Commerce Committee Meeting, February 10,2014

Arizona House Ad Hoc International Trade and Commerce Committee Meeting, February 10, 2014

The Arizona House Ad Hoc International Trade and Commerce Committee met February 10 to discuss the possibility of the state joining the City of Phoenix’s efforts in opening a trade office in Mexico City. Glenn Hamer, President & CEO Arizona Chamber of Commerce; Sandra Watson, CEO Arizona Commerce Authority; Margie Emmerman, Executive Director of the Arizona-Mexico Commission; and Hank Marshall, City of Phoenix Economic Development Director presented perspectives on the impact such an office would have on the the Arizona economy, citing Mexico as Arizona’s number one trading partner with $7 billion in exports and comprising 40% of its export market. Phoenix City Council members Sal DeCiccio and Michael Nowakowski emphasized the importance of the state’s involvement. Business owner Lorena Valencia, President of Reliance Wire & Cable, implored the committee to “Take the chance while you have the choice.” For Valencia’s business headquartered in Scottsdale, sitting on the sidelines when it comes to Mexico is not an option and an AZ trade office in Mexico City would provide much needed support.

The idea of having representation offices in foreign markets is not new to the State of Arizona. Arizona Commerce Authority CEO Sandra Watson noted that before the Great Recession, the state operated offices not only in Mexico, but also in Canada, Europe and Japan. The offices were closed for further evaluation due to poor return on investment coupled with the state’s budget shortfall.

Today, 22 other states and/or cities have some sort of representation in Mexico, either through a permanently staffed office or through a business consultant. States like Texas, Colorado, Georgia, Utah, Ohio, and others have invested in a long term political and economic relationship with Mexico. The City of San Antonio has several offices.

Supporters urged the committee to consider a long-term political and economic commitment from the state and other key stakeholders. Consensus among the state, as well as the City of Phoenix, Tucson and other stakeholders will be necessary in order to develop a long-term, phased-out plan with a clear set of goals and metrics for the state’s representation abroad.

By J. Alejandro Figueroa, Principal, Strategy International, LLC & Director, U.S. Operations at Bilateral Council and Ruth Soberanes, Research Analyst, North American Research Partnership

Michoacán and Public Policy: Never Let A Serious Crisis Go to Waste

Many thanks to Gabriella Sánchez for her interesting take on the local roots of the conflict in Michoacán, which serves not only as a dramatic example of public safety issues boiling over but also for the way it speaks to a number of public policy areas simultaneously, including environmental, agricultural and even fiscal policies, among others. Most directly, of course, the crisis brings attention on Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s security policy, anchored by a focus on reducing violence, centralizing federal security efforts, a new communications policy and creating a national gendarmerie (I would highly recommend viewing analyst Alejandro Hope’s excellent review of the policy during the Mexico Institute’s recent event, “The State of Citizen Security in Mexico: The Pena Nieto Administration’s First Year in Review.”). In fact, watch the entire video.

The crisis in Michoacán has touched off a tremendous discussion in Mexico over what the next steps should be. The Saturday Los Angeles Times piece by Richard Fausset is one of the better articles in English on the crisis, with a focus on the difficult options for Mexican federal, state and local officials. To wit: How do federal forces work together with the grupos de autodefensa? Should Mexico incorporate some or all of the vigilante groups into formal law enforcement? What is to be done about the government officials who aided and abetted the Knights Templars? In other words, extremely tough public policy questions, but an impressive range of ideas from analysts that have the potential to impact the issues going forward. “Never let a serious crisis go to waste,” to quote Rahm Emanuel.

Though Michoacán is located hundreds of miles south of Mexico’s border with the United States and by no means has a direct impact on U.S. security, it does raise comparisons to the (binational) response to the violence in Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez during the truly dark days of 2009-2011. The security situation in Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez is now much improved; in both cities, the role of civic organizations and detailed state-federal political and policy agreements were critical factors in bringing the city back from the brink. The multi-issue, multi-level response to border security challenges is a clear indication that Mexico is more than capable of addressing security issues. These are solvable problems in the medium-term that require strong initial investment and then a willingness to take on significant institutional change.

Of course, a number of critically important security areas in Mexico need continuing attention, including public participation, police reform and judicial reform. Successfully addressing these issues will positively impact U.S.-Mexico border security, as Eric Olson and I wrote in our chapter on security in the State of the Border Report. Binational collaboration can help to a degree in certain specific areas, and through the Mérida Initiative, the United States has invested in rule of law efforts in Mexico, including trainings for Mexican judges, prosecutors, forensic experts and police coordinated by the Conference of Western Attorneys General. Our 2011 report on binational anti-human trafficking cooperation efforts highlighted some additional and important collaborative work on an issue of mutual importance to both governments.

Public security in Mexico is a complex topic of immense importance for Mexico and, indirectly, the United States and Central America. A quick list of recommended work in English in this area includes David Shirk’s recent policy piece on the state of public security in Mexico, Daniel Sabet’s Police Reform in Mexico: Informal Politics and the Challenge of Institutional Change and Robert Donnelly and David Shirk’s Police and Public Security in Mexico. In Mexico, the Instituto Mexicano para la Competitividad, CIDAC and México Evalúa are among many non-governmental groups doing important work in this area.