Over the next several weeks, we will periodically take a closer look at the eight principal recommendations from our 2015 report, Competitive Border Communities: Mapping and Developing U.S.-Mexico Transborder Industries, a collaboration with our partners at the Mexico Institute. Today we look at the first recommendation.
Our leadoff recommendation (you can find the full list of recommendations on pages 14-15 of the report) has to do with the key economic development role played by the two federal governments at what is a very delineated, securitized border (which could not be more different from Europe’s Schengen area). To wit:
The United States and Mexican federal governments must play an especially important role in cross-border economic development efforts. Given the fact that border economies have an international boundary running through the middle of them, stakeholder engagement efforts that build partnerships between federal agencies and local communities are invaluable in this process. U.S. and Mexican consulates can serve an expanded facilitating role in these cross-border economic development efforts.
In other words, because of the highly “securitized” nature of the U.S.-Mexico border, border communities’ independent spirit won’t be enough to get the job done. In addition, post-9/11 security enhancements along the U.S.-Mexico border by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have—as we have argued elsewhere—have made it that much harder to do economic development in border communities (much of which should be cross-border economic development).
Therefore, if the two federal governments want to utilize the border as a platform for economic integration, development and growth by helping to build transborder industry clusters, they must play a significant role in local cluster-based economic development efforts. Specifically, U.S. and Mexican Consulates in border cities will need to be staffed with additional experts on trade and export promotion, customs processes, agricultural issues and related topics. In addition, they are in the best position to pull together the numerous federal agencies with a stake in border economic issues. There is much to do and the work has just begun, but the return on investment is potentially enormous.