Board members bring perspective of border business community, public sector leadership

MCALLEN, TEXAS (January 10, 2019)—Board members of the Border Trade Alliance, North America’s premier advocate for cross-border trade, participated in a high-level discussion with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) today in McAllen, Texas where the need to balance border security with legitimate trade and travel was discussed on the heels of President Trump’s visit to the border city.

BTA Vice Chairman Sergio Contreras, who also serves as the president and CEO of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership, a regional chamber of commerce, said the participants made clear that free-flowing cross-border commerce is essential to the health of the border region economy.

“We made clear to the senators that we appreciated the president’s willingness to travel to the border today to learn firsthand from our area’s leaders about the unique issues we face,” Contreras said. “We share the president’s prioritization of border security, but it’s a challenge we must face without inflicting tremendous economic harm by disrupting the trade responsible for so many jobs in our area and across the country.”

Sam Vale, the president and CEO of the Starr-Camargo Bridge Co. in Rio Grande City, Texas, who chairs the BTA’s Public Policy Committee, said there was agreement over the benefits of enhancing border security.

“We thanked Sen. Cornyn and Sen. Cruz for convening the important discussion. We shared with them that the president is right that the border by its nature will always have security concerns that must be dealt with, but our economy is so connected to our cross-border relationship with Mexico that we must be extremely cautious how we address this challenge,” Vale said. “We do not believe, for example, that constructing a wall the entire length of the U.S.-Mexico border is practical or a wise use of limited taxpayer resources. But a significant investment in our ports of entry for personnel, technology upgrades, and improved infrastructure would both help the U.S. economy and significantly aid our efforts to interdict traffickers, smugglers, and others who would seek to do harm.”

The BTA for the past year has been intensely involved in the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement and has made the congressional adoption of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, a top priority.

“We shared with the senators that we are hopeful that this impasse over border security and government spending can be solved quickly so Washington’s attention can focus on the need to strengthen our trading relationship with Canada and Mexico,” Contreras said. “We commended the president for his administration reaching a deal on the USMCA, and we pledged our support to Sen. Cornyn and Sen. Cruz in helping to ensure its ratification and implementation.”

Joining Contreras and Vale at the event were fellow BTA board members Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez, who moderated the discussion; McAllen Mayor Jim Darling, who greeted President Trump at McAllen International Airport; and Rigoberto Villarreal, superintendent of international bridges for McAllen.

Since 1986, the BTA has served as a grassroots, non-profit organization that provides a forum for discussion and advocacy on issues pertaining to border development and quality of life and trade in the Americas. A network of public and private sector representatives from the United States, Mexico and Canada, BTA’s core values include a commitment to improving the quality of life of border communities through trade and commerce. The BTA is online at and @borderalliance.

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