Stop CANAMEX, Stop the Intermountain West Corridor and I-11! Stop the Sun Corridor! Stop the 202!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Arizona's Roads Meant for Trade with Mexico Despite Corruption and Violence?

Protesters temporarily close the Acapulco Airport November 10
Also read this more recent piece, Interstate 11: NAFTA Trade Corridor

It has been decided for us that the destiny of Arizona's economy has everything to do with international trade, specifically trade with Mexico. Perhaps it seemed that the current Mexican president was succeeding in making Mexico safer for foreign investments, but in recent days, the press is saying Peña Nieto is in the midst of the worst crisis of his presidency. Evidence is pointing to the horrible mass-murder of 43 student protesters in the state of Guerrero last seen in custody of police. Most likely, the murder, destruction (bodies were chopped up and burned), and disposal of the students was master-minded by the mayor and/or his wife who wanted to be the next mayor, both of whom fled but were captured by authorities. [The official story given by the Mexican government has been shown to be false.] Protesters recently attacked the National Palace in response to Nieto, rather than showing respect for the families of the students, leaving for China amidst a controversy regarding a Chinese-led consortium (which included Mexican companies) winning a bid for a high speed passenger rail. Media has exposed a likely quid pro quo deal in which Nieto and his wife received a mansion in exchange for the award for the rail bid. The $4 billion deal for the rail system was suddenly cancelled when this and other questions about transparency came up regarding the bid.

There is no question that Arizona's transportation plans revolve around trade with Mexico. There is a major push for Interstate 11 for example. Much has moved forward recently in furtherance of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) largely in part to the expected growth of the Mexican economy and its role in international trade. Not to imply that there is no corruption among the US and state governments, the enthusiasm with which AZ officials embrace trade with Mexico raises various questions, especially now. Increased transportation infrastructure opens more doors for multi-billion dollar arenas for corruption, likely facilitates the drug trade (and more security at check points and such may only mean more arms, equipment, and training going to those working with drug cartels), in addition to more human rights violations and environmental damage when and where the infrastructure is built. Transportation and trade go hand in hand not only because of the requirement for movement of goods, but also because both are venues that allow multinational corporations to make massive amounts of money.

Mexican transportation infrastructure is meant to link up to Arizona's. Case in point is the major October announcement, discussed by KJZZ, that Mexican officials pledged "to spend the equivalent of $1 billion on highway improvements to expedite the shipments of goods from central Mexico into the U.S." Specifically this involves the improvement of Route 15 leading north to Nogales (part of the CANAMEX Corridor). This is where Interstate 11 from Las Vegas through Arizona is likely intended to reach the Mexican border.

There is such an effort to push international trade as the basis of Arizona's economy that John McCain wrote a Guest Opinion piece titled, "We must make it easy to do business in Arizona" printed last month in a Nogales newspaper

A recent ADOT press release stated that "the U.S. and Mexican governments finalized a plan to invest $6.8 million implementing U.S. technology, equipment and training to enhance the efficiency of the military inspection station north of Hermosillo, which inspects more than 1,000 trucks per day." Increased international trade brings more border security and militarization.

The release also listed other developments regarding Arizona-Mexico trade including increased freight rail infrastructure, "development of a new port of entry at Douglas/Agua Prieta and the expansion of the San Luis II Port of Entry at San Luis, Arizona," in addition to "advances to the necessary improvements to the Mexican side of the Nogales-Mariposa Port of Entry at Nogales, Arizona."

ADOT also recently announced the launch of Arizona's new trade office in Mexico and a delegation of Arizonans to Mexico City for strategic meetings. Mexican leaders announced that ProMexico, which is "the federal government agency responsible for promoting Mexico's participation in the international economy," will open an office in Phoenix.

Although the Transportation and Trade Corridor Alliance released its Roadmap several months ago, they're making efforts to push their agenda with their action plan recently posted on their website. Goal #1 is to Establish Arizona as a leader in High Value Trade and Investment, and goal #2 is to Develop an Integrated Transportation System Supportive of Arizona's Economic Goals. As part of this second goal, they seek to support what they call "Key Commerce Corridors." They say, "The Key Commerce Corridors plan represents Arizona's major statewide transportation initiative for the next 20 years."

TTCA is claiming they're the best authority on prioritizing Arizona's transportation plans and that they plan to come up with funding options, which involves public-private partnerships (P3). "Creative ideas for an era of reduced federal funding include new state and local revenue sources, private infrastructure, P3s, user fees, local funding, and high-impact, low-cost projects to meet infrastructure needs." Of course they're pro P3- they're made up of public and private members.

According to their website, "TTCA will serve as the state's freight advisory committee, as required under the recently enacted federal transportation bill," which refers to MAP-21. According to the Arizona-Mexico Commission website, "the Arizona Governor’s Transportation and Trade Corridor Alliance (TTCA)... encompasses the former CANAMEX Task Force." A review of recent Arizona State Transportation Board minutes shows an emphasis on TTCA's influence.

The TTCA would probably not exist without the Arizona-Mexico Commission. AMC is a non-profit organization which is essentially a public-private partnership unit in that its leadership involves public officials such as the governor (Brewer) and the director of ADOT (Halikowski) in addition to several private, as in corporate, partners. The Transportation and Trade Corridor Alliance (TTCA) is primarily made up of AMC board or committee members and gives AMC's agenda more legitimacy and reach. TTCA was instituted in early 2012 by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. According to a press release back then, "ADOT – in collaboration with the Arizona-Mexico Commission and the Arizona Commerce Authority – will bring together public and private sector partners to assess opportunities for Arizona to pursue investments in trade corridors such as the newly-designated Interstate 11, and to explore enhancements to border infrastructure. The Alliance will help identify how best to take advantage of the state’s current resources and guide future investment in a strategic way to increase the capacity of existing corridors – all with the ultimate goal of improving Arizona’s competitiveness in a global marketplace"

As discussed on this blog, AMC is said to be the "god father" of the CANAMEX Corridor by AMC's CANAMEX expert Jim Kolbe. It is likely that CANAMEX is not specifically mentioned in the TTCA Roadmap or Action Plan because Interstate 11 is now in the works. Interstate 11 would in some ways complete CANAMEX, but is also part of a vision for a similar trade Corridor called the Intermountain West Corridor, which may eventually be designated officially as Interstate 11 from the border with Canada to the border with Mexico. See Filling in the I-11/CANAMEX Gaps for more exploration of this issue.  

Below is a list of people representing the overlap between various organizations related to trade and transportation. (It is uncertain as to whether the CANAMEX Coalition still exists, hence the parentheses below. Where AMC is in bold, the individual is on the board rather than just on a committee).
  • John Halikowski (ADOT Director): State Transportation Board, AMC, TTCA
  • Victor Flores: State Transportation Board, AMC, TTCA
  • Hank Rogers: State Transportation Board, AMC
  • Jack Sellers: State Transportation Board, AMC
  • Jim Kolbe: TTCA, AMC, (CANAMEX Coalition)
  • James Manson: TTCA, AMC
  • Gary Magrino: TTCA, AMC (formerly)
  • Mary Peters: TTCA, (CANAMEX Coalition)
  • Margie Emmerman, TTCA, AMC, (CANAMEX Coalition)
  • Bruce Wright, TTCA, AMC, (CANAMEX Coalition)
  • Tom Skancke Executive Director of I-11 Coalition, (CANAMEX Coalition)
  • Dave Berry President of the I-11 Coalition, formerly AZ Governor's CANAMEX task force
The TTCA recently put on an event in early November as described in an ADOT press release: As the World Trades: Leaders to discuss Arizona’s place in global economy. "Leaders from Arizona’s transportation, trade and commerce industries will come together with national and international business specialists next week to discuss Arizona’s stake in the global marketplace and strategies to foster international trade and economic growth."

An additional component of all of this is the partnering agreement signed in April of 2014 to form the Arizona-Sonora Binational Megaregion. According to the Yuma Sun, "The newly formed Arizona-Sonora Binational Megaregion will 'foster competitiveness and innovation' and 'implement economic development plans and strategies to benefit the megaregion.'"

Considering so many US citizens know someone who has lost their job to China or Mexico, how do state officials expect to convince us that more trade with Mexico will bring economic prosperity? NAFTA has not been good for any workers. Although NAFTA was not the beginning of the negative impact in Mexico of US influence on policy, nor of international trade, there is plenty of evidence that it had a major detriment to Mexican workers and their families. The US government correctly predicted that NAFTA would lead to displacement and migration of Mexicans and began to increase border security in urban areas, such as Operation Gatekeeper in the San Diego area, launched the same year NAFTA was enacted. Migrants have been scapegoats in response to decreasing employment rates, yet it is the companies that seek cheaper wages, lower labor standards and less environmental regulations. Add to this the corruption that is so clear among Mexican officials, and we can see that any bi-national partnership can bring nothing good.

Read more on this subject at Megapolitan in a Mega-Drought? A Guide to the Sun Corridor (scroll down to "Trade with Mexico".

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