BTA Vice Chairman Sergio Contreras, president and CEO of Rio Grande Valley Partnership, makes case for land border ports’ importance to region, nation’s economy; joined by fellow board member Pete Saenz, mayor of Laredo, Texas, chair-elect of Texas Border Coalition
WASHINGTON (July 18, 2018) – Border Trade Alliance Vice Chairman Sergio Contreras today told a U.S. Senate subcommittee that “well-functioning ports of entry are essential to our nation’s economic health.”
Contreras, who is also the president and CEO of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, a regional chamber of commerce in South Texas, delivered his remarks before the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness. He appeared at the invitation of Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas).
Fellow BTA board member Pete Saenz, the mayor of Laredo, Texas and the chairman-elect of the Texas Border Coalition also testified at the hearing.
The hearing, entitled, “Trade and Commerce at U.S. Ports of Entry,” examined ports’ role in the national economy and the country’s physical security.
Contreras testified that U.S. ports are “highly integral to our country’s security.”
“Without the proper resources – personnel, technology, and infrastructure – our ports can be exploited by smugglers or others with motives that run counter to the rule of law,” Contreras said.
Contreras’ testimony comes during the ongoing negotiation over the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement and a debate over trade’s impact generally.
Nearly nine million U.S. jobs depend on trade with Canada, and 5 million U.S. jobs can be attributed to trade with Mexico. NAFTA has created a highly efficient, just-in-time manufacturing environment that has resulted in an enhanced quality of life throughout the region.
Contreras used his remarks to argue that devoting more resources to ports of entry have both economic and security benefits.
“The reason is simple,” Contreras said. “More resources devoted to inspecting and clearing legitimate freight and travelers means more resources for interdiction.”
Contreras raised concern that Customs and Border Protection, the lead government agency at ports of entry, continues to struggle in recruiting new personnel, though he acknowledged that the agency has made some progress of late in hiring.
“Encouragingly, the trendlines on hiring appear headed in the right direction,” Contreras said. “But there’s still plenty of room for improvement.”
Contreras encouraged Congress to consider legislation that would remove bureaucratic barriers to hiring while still maintaining high recruitment standards.
Video of Contreras and Saenz’s testimony is available at https://www.finance.senate.gov/hearings/trade-and-commerce-at-us-ports-of-entry
Contreras’ written testimony can be accessed here.