Trade expert to help build Arizona-Mexico business relationship

According to the Arizona Republic, the state will once again have a permanent presence in Mexico, with a new contract to hire a trade and economics expert south of the border. State officials late last week finalized a $50,000-a-year contract to hire Ignacio Escalante of Hermosillo, Sonora. He will help Arizona officials identify opportunities for Arizona companies to establish businesses in Mexico, sell goods and services to businesses in Mexico, forge relationships between businesspeople on both sides of the border and assist state agencies with their Mexican counterparts.

Escalante’s hiring re-establishes the position, which was eliminated under Gov. Jan Brewer’s administration more than three years ago because of the recession, budget cuts and a slowdown of manufacturing operations in Mexico. Previously, the position mostly focused on cooperation between the two countries on trade, education and tourism. But when state officials decided to again fund and fill the position, they expanded the duties.

“The trade numbers are getting better … and the recession is not quite as dire as it was back then, so this is a great opportunity for us to get re-established,” said Margie Emmerman, executive director of the Arizona-Mexico Commission. “Mexico is still a very face-to-face nation … and this will get us back to the level of interaction and interface that we need.”

Emmerman said other border states have funded trade representatives in Mexico, but Arizona’s new position is the first of its kind because it’s a “more expansive full-service relationship.” The commission and the Arizona Commerce Authority will pay for Escalante’s contract.

For decades, Arizona and Sonora have worked together on regional issues such as trade and transportation that benefit both sides of the border. Arizona in 1992 opened its first trade office in Hermosillo under Gov. Fife Symington and Sonora Gov. Manlio Fabio Beltrones. It flourished under governors Jane Dee Hull and Janet Napolitano, who focused on the promotion of trade, education, tourism and legislative cooperation.

Escalante told The Arizona Republic that he believes there are opportunities for Arizona businesses to sell supplies and services to the manufacturing industries in Mexico — particularly the automotive and aerospace sectors. “There are fresh opportunities on both sides of the border,” he said. “The need is to promote the region as a good place to attract new investments … and create more jobs for the region.”

Mexico is Arizona’s largest trade partner, and visitors from there spend an average of $7.3 million every day in Arizona stores, restaurants, hotels and other businesses, according to figures from the Arizona-Mexico Commission. Officials also reported that in 2011, two-way trade between Arizona and Mexico represented $26 billion in goods and services.

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