Arizona, Sonora governors celebrate free trade, friendship

Claudia Pavlovich
Doug Ducey

The governors of the two border states, Arizona and Sonora, Mexico, came together last week to celebrate their shared accomplishments in furthering the region’s growth as a global economic force over the past six years.  

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and Sonora Governor Claudia Pavlovich spoke at a special virtual meeting of the Arizona-Mexico Commission (AMC) and Comisión Sonora-Arizona (CSA) to highlight their shared successes as well as their friendship since they both were first elected in 2015. The event also honored Pavlovich, Sonora’s first female head of state, who is finishing out her term this year. 

Juan Ciscomani

“Today we see these common roots and unbreakable ties everywhere,” Juan Ciscomani, senior adviser to the governor and vice chair of the AMC, said during introductory remarks. “They are in our economies and our businesses, they are in our binational tourism, they are in our trade relationships, they are in the arts — and they are definitely in our food!”

More than 800 people tuned in to the event, “Arizona-Sonora: Transcendent Leadership Sonora-Arizona: Liderazgo Trascendente,” Arizona Public Service was the prime sponsor of the event. 

Legacy and mission: improving quality of life, economic development 

Jessica Pacheco

This year, the two commissions are celebrating 62 years of collaboration in promoting the region. Founded in 1959 by former governors Paul Fannin and Álvaro Obregón, the commissions’ mission is to improve the quality of life for citizens through public-private collaborations. Economic development is a key focus.   

During their tenure, Ducey and Pavlovich have developed one of the strongest and most fruitful relationships in the history of the border, said Jessica Pacheco, president of the AMC board of directors. 

Friendship and free trade 

In the process, free and open trade between the two states and countries has created one of the largest economies in the world, benefitting both states. Two-way trade between Mexico and Arizona reached $17.51 billion in 2019.  

“In every metric that we measure, there’s been improvement,” Ducey said. 

“I know the citizens of Arizona have heard me say dozens of times that Mexico is our number one trading partner and it’s not even close — this is four times any other trading partner the state of Arizona has,” he said. 

Pavlovich expressed similar sentiments about Sonora. 

“It seems like I see a new skyscraper going up everyday,” Pavlovich said in Spanish. 

Shared accomplishments 

At the event, they listed key accomplishments of the two relationship over the past six years, including;

-The Unified Cargo Processing program between the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency and Mexico’s Tax Administration Service allows for officers from both agencies to work side by side at ports of entry to jointly inspect and process cargo shipments. The program has eliminated the need for separate inspections and reduced wait times for goods crossing the border. 

-The Border Liaison Unit works with the international commercial transportation industry to ensure safe and efficient movement of people, goods and services. Among its functions are to hold training workshops and classes for truck operators in both states to improve border crossing efficiency to reduce wait times.

-Safety corridor from Lukeville to Puerto Peñasco, also known as Rocky Point. This 63-mile safety corridor along Highway 8 was created to improve safety for travelers. The initiative included improved lighting and increased law enforcement and emergency services. 

-Educational partnerships Sonora and Arizona universities and colleges have entered into a number of agreements and memorandums of understanding to provide more opportunities for research and students, including tuition waivers and reduced tuition for international students. 

-Arizona-Sonora Business Expo draws hundreds of exhibitors and thousands of visitors each year, focusing on the region’s high-growth industries like aerospace, mining, construction, manufacturing, medical devices, renewable energy and tourism.

Expansion and investment at ports of entry at border crossings. For example, nearly $60 million of private investment has resulted from improvements to border infrastructure in Nogales, Arizona, for warehouses and distribution centers to support international commerce.

United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement Both governors worked to encourage  passage of the new free trade agreement. The agreement replaced the outdated NAFTA to bring tariff-free trade into the modern age. There are new chapters on digital trade, protection of intellectual property, and the opening up of international trade to more small and medium-sized businesses.

“Staying the course” through five presidents, Covid-19

Since 2015, when the two were first elected to office, the region has attracted hundreds of new companies, thousands of new jobs and billions of dollars in investment, they said. Growing supply and distribution chains near the border are bringing in major corporations like Lucid Motors, which is investing $1 billion in an electric vehicle factory in Casa Grande.

Both said it took staying the course during times of political turmoil, the changeover of three American presidents and two Mexican presidents, and Covid-19. 

“Arizona and Sonora have already shown what can be achieved when you chart a course and lead a vision. Together we’ve shown the world that everyone is better off when you put politics aside and put people first,” Ducey said.

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