EL PASO, Texas - Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican member of the Senate Finance, Intelligence and Judiciary Committees, spoke in El Paso Thursday as a guest speaker for the Borderplex Alliance.
Sen Cornyn discussed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), infrastructure, border security and other issues affecting the region. The discussion was moderated by John Barela, CEO of the Borderplex Alliance.
"I like to say that we're sort of like an old married couple. We can't get a divorce, we gotta get along," Sen. Cornyn said in regards to the ties that bind the US and Mexico.
NAFTA, the free trade deal with Canada and Mexico will be renegotiated. The Trump administration told Congress earlier this month there would be 90 days of consultations on the renegotiating of the 23-year-old pact before beginning talks with Canada and Mexico. Annual trade of goods between Mexico and the U.S. was at $525 billion in 2016, with the U.S. running a trade deficit of more than $63 billion.
Although Trump has called NAFTA the "worst trade deal in history," Cornyn said it has allowed Texas to increase its exports by 354% since its ratification in 1994 and is essential to economic prosperity, but now changes need to be made.
"After 23 years or so just think of everything that's happened. In the last 3 or so years, there's been a lot of changes in both of our countries," Sen. Cornyn said.
Cornyn pointed out the energy renaissance and Mexico's change in domestic laws to allow for more foreign investment. He say he wants the U.S to have an advantage.
"Mexico has entered into a number of other trade agreements with Europe and elsewhere. And I would hope that we would get at least as favorable treatment as these other nations have gotten in subsequent trade agreements," Sen. Cornyn said.
Cornyn said Texas is the number one exporting state in country, with eight million jobs created as part of bi-national trade. The senator further stated Texas outpaces every other state in trade and growth.
Jon Barela, the CEO of the Borderplex Alliance also took the stage with Senator Cornyn and echoing his openness to the renegotiations. Barela telling ABC-7 NAFTA has created five million jobs in the U.S. and there's a golden opportunity to create hundreds of thousands more across the country and in the Borderplex region.
"We know here in the Borderplex that NAFTA is critical but it's also a uniquely important job issuer," Barela said.
Cornyn said he was troubled by some of the comments made during the course of the Trump campaign.
"Anytime anyone starts talking about the border in Washington DC, chances are they're going to get it wrong," Cornyn said, "When I first heard about the border adjustment tax, the hair on the back of my neck started to stand up."
Cornyn said he recently brought colleagues to the border because the border in El Paso is different from border in Laredo. People need to understand why our economic relationship with Mexico is important, Cornyn said.
"This is a complicated issue and most of what complicates it is that most people's knowledge - or supposed knowledge of the border - is derived from watching movies and reading novels," the Senator said, "Most of the people who are in the position to make policy with regard to the border have never been to the border."
The Borderplex Alliance is looking for suggestions on a new NAFTA. They encourage you to submit your ideas to them. Congress is accepting public comment until June 12th.