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Trade community should speak out against secondary commercial inspections by Texas at border


In my last column, I wrote about Texas Governor Greg Abbott sending Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers to the two major international ports of entry in El Paso, to do secondary inspections on commercial vehicles, as they crossed northbound into the U.S. from Mexico. These were done under the aegis of searching for contraband, such as drugs and undocumented migrants. In reality, the Texas DPS personnel did not have authority to inspect cargo. However, the stopping of trucks for safety inspections caused massive lines and long waiting times to cross cargo, sometimes more than eight hours. The unannounced inspections started on April 27 and lasted until May 4, when Texas DPS unexpectedly shut them down.

It is apparent that Governor Abbott has a beef with the El Paso region for not supporting his policies and voting predominantly Democratic. He has ordered Texas DPS to do these inspections several times in the past few years, with no major capture of contraband or humans reported. In today’s environment, we have seen politics become increasingly personal and dirty. However, stopping the normal flow of cargo through the international ports of entry is self-detrimental and illogical. The U.S. and Mexico should be working together to find ways to makes ports of entry more efficient. More efficiencies will make North America more competitive against other regions of the world. This will also result in cost savings for companies that can be passed on to consumers in terms of lower prices.

The Texas DPS inspections do the opposite. They increase inefficiencies and add costs to the supply chain, which will be passed down to consumers. The Maquiladora and Manufacturing Export Industry Association (Index), which represents Mexico’s maquiladora industry, recently published a report estimating that for each truck that was stranded in long lines or could not cross on time, $65,000 was lost. On average, 2,500 commercial vehicles cross daily at the Zaragoza-Ysleta Port of Entry in east El Paso. The Monday after the inspections started, only 461 trucks were able to cross because of the slowdown in traffic. This would have resulted in $132,535,00 million in losses to the economy in just one day. If we multiply this figure by seven, which were the days the port was open to process cargo during the inspection blitz, almost $928 million of trade was lost through this port. This does not even include losses at the Bridge of the Americas, which is the other major El Paso commercial port of entry. The Santa Teresa Port of Entry did become a reliever port for some of the traffic, but it could only handle so much.

In today’s world, when many people think about the U.S.-Mexico border, they conjure up negative images of the flow of drugs or migrants attempting to force their way into the U.S. These are indeed two serious issues that the U.S. and Mexico must work together in good faith to address. What many people fail to realize is that the border is a lifeline of trade between the two nations that supply Americans with products that we take for granted on a daily basis. How many of us have a Dell computer or vehicles whose components are manufactured in Mexico? How many of us eat tomatoes, avocados, and other produce in the winter that is grown in Mexico? How many of us fiddle on consumer electronics on a daily basis that are manufactured in Mexico?

I would hazard a guess that today most of us will purchase or handle a product that comes from Mexico that we utilize due to convenience and price. This is made possible because of the system of crossing cargo that has been in place for decades. And for decades, U.S. and Mexican Customs have worked with the trade community to make the system more efficient. This system is made inefficient when a monkey wrench, such as the Texas DPS secondary inspections, is thrown into the mix.

The trade community, especially the Texas trade community, needs to strongly send a message to the State of Texas that disrupting trade for political reasons is unacceptable. Trade with Mexico creates investment that generates taxes for states such as Texas It also creates jobs that create wealth and additional taxes. These are taxes that support government jobs all the way up to the governor’s office.

If a strong message is not sent, announced inspections that snarl trade will continue to occur in the future. These disruptions have happened in the past, and we can expect them to continue in the future if the trade community remains silent and is willing to suffer. Consumers also need to know that these disruptions affect them. Ultimately, they are the ones who will be paying for the estimated $928 million in losses at the Zaragoza Port of Entry by this latest political move.

Jerry Pacheco is President of the Border Industrial Association. Jerry Pacheco's opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of KRWG Public Media.

Jerry Pacheco is President of the Border Industrial Association and Executive Director of the International Business Accelerator.